To celebrate World Oral Health Day (WOHD), the FDI World Dental Federation has published the results of a survey looking into what people around the world believe to be good oral health practices.

The results of the survey – carried out in 12 countries, by Yougov on behalf of the FDI – exposed a significant gap between what people believe to be good oral health practices, versus what they actually do.

‘These survey results highlight an alarming discrepancy between knowledge and actual good oral health practices,’ said Dr Patrick Hescot, FDI president. ‘We want everyone to take control of their oral health this World Oral Health Day and understand that by adopting good oral hygiene habits, avoiding risk factors and having a regular dental check-up, they can help protect their mouths.

‘A healthy mouth allows us to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, swallow and convey a range of emotions with confidence and without pain, discomfort and disease. Good oral health matters and translates to a better quality of life.’

UK results

The FDI reports Brits to be the most ‘mouth smart’ aware in knowing what is good for oral health, however this doesn’t always translate into action.

In the UK, 83% of survey respondents think that brushing teeth at least twice a day for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste is important, yet only 64% tend to do it.

When it comes to avoiding excessive amounts of sugar, only 53% do it – despite 78% knowing it’s important for good oral health.

A high proportion of respondents in Great Britain (82%) know that visiting the dentist at least once a year is important, and 66% tend to do it.

Comparing countries

Eight of the countries reported that 50% or more of the people surveyed think it is important to brush your teeth straight after every main meal. Brazil, Mexico, Egypt and Poland were the worst offenders of this incorrect oral health practice (84%, 81%, 62% and 60%, respectively). The FDI recommends waiting at least 30 minutes after eating to brush your teeth to avoid weakening tooth enamel.

The majority of countries surveyed incorrectly believe that rinsing the mouth out with water after brushing is important; Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, India and Canada were found to practise this myth the most (77%, 75%, 73%, 67% and 67%, respectively).

It is actually recommended not to rinse with water straight after brushing to allow maximum exposure to fluoride, which will optimise the preventive effects.

Nearly half the population surveyed in India, South Africa, Brazil and Poland (52%, 49%, 48% and 42%, respectively), felt that drinking fruit juice rather than fizzy drinks was important for good oral health. Fruit juice however, can also be high in sugar, which can cause tooth decay. The FDI recommends keeping consumption of sugary drinks to a minimum as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Oral health impact

Oral health is integral to our general health and wellbeing; impacting every aspect of our lives. Therefore, the FDI World Dental Federation is using the survey to encourage people to become better informed and take action.

Dr Edoardo Cavalle, WOHD task team chair, stated: ‘Understanding good oral health practices and adopting them early in life, will help to maintain optimal oral health into old age and ensure you live a long life free from physical pain and often emotional suffering caused by oral disease.’

Key survey findings include:

  • Brazil, Mexico and South Africa acted the most ‘mouth smart’ with their oral health habits; while the US, Egypt and Japan came bottom of the list
  • Conversely, Canada, New Zealand and Great Britain were the most ‘mouth smart’ aware in knowing what is good for oral health, but this didn’t always translate into action
  • Eight of the countries reported that 50% or more of the people surveyed incorrectly think it is important to brush straight after every main meal
  • The majority of countries surveyed incorrectly believe that rinsing the mouth out with water after brushing is important.