Bad dental hygiene could possibly increase the risk of swine flu as today’s National Dental Survey reveals the UK’s failure to heed infection control advice.
Dreadful dental habits are helping spread germs – as 40% of the UK population admit to picking their teeth with fingernails.
Picking teeth with everyday items such as earrings, credit cards, paperclips, paper and even screwdrivers are some of the disturbing habits flying in the face of infection-busting advice.
The survey was conducted by the British Dental Health Foundation as part of National Smile Month (which launched yesterday).
Picking teeth with fingernails risks spreading germs from surfaces touched and dirty hands straight to the mouth and onwards to the rest of the body.
Foundation chief executive Dr Nigel Carter said: ‘Hygiene warnings have been made clear ever since the swine flu outbreak, and it is worrying that these habits have been revealed as the numbers affected by flu steadily rises. Personal hygiene should be a top priority for all.’
Results highlighted the UK’s lack of awareness of the importance of oral health, with research linking gum disease to heart disease, diabetes, strokes, premature births, low birth-weight babies and, in recent early studies, infertility.
Yet awareness of these important overall health links is low. Two-thirds remain unaware of possible links to heart disease, four in five knew nothing of the links to strokes or diabetes, while 94% of respondents had no clue of potential risks posed to pregnant women.
Dr Carter added: ‘The public could be put at risk by poor dental hygiene habits yet awareness of these risks is very low. Gum disease in particular has been linked to serious health issues. It affects most people at some point in their lives, so there is no excuse for ignoring good dental hygiene.’