Bad teeth hurt career prospects: YouGov poll

Health & Hygiene
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Public say poor oral health/dental decay ranks alongside scruffiness, and ahead of weight and dress code violations, as barrier to getting hired

Britain’s tooth decay crisis is damaging life chances. New evidence reveals over three quarters of the population believe poor oral health will hinder job applicantions and career prospects.

A new survey by YouGov for the British Dental Association shows that 77% of respondents felt that decayed teeth or bad breath would hinder a candidate’s chances of securing employment in public or client-facing roles – while only half that number (38%) felt the same about being overweight. [1]

62% felt applicants with visibly decayed teeth, missing teeth or bad breath would be at a disadvantage securing any role, with 6 in 10 believing it could hinder promotion prospects.

The survey comes as MPs gather in Westminster to launch the All Party Parliamentary Group for Dentistry and Oral Health. Tooth decay remains the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children. [2] Recent official data shows deep oral health inequalities are persisting, with a child born in Blackburn being nearly seven times more likely to experience decay than one born in the Surrey constituency of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. [3] [3,a]

Independent studies have shown oral health problems can have a lasting impact on children’s school readiness, impair their nutrition, development, and ability to socialise with other children. [4] More than a quarter of teenagers say they are too embarrassed to smile or laugh due to the condition of their teeth [5]. Dentists argue these new figures show why government must act to break the link between decay and deprivation.

Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, Chair of General Dental Practice at the BDA, said, “In a competitive jobs market people are realising that bad teeth mean bad prospects. This new evidence is a stark reminder that a winning smile isn’t just for fans of selfies, it’s for anyone who wants to get on in life.

“Ministers have viewed oral health as an ‘optional extra’ for far too long. For the children lining up for tooth extractions in our hospitals, decay has long-term consequences. Whether they grow up to be solicitors or receptionists, the state of their mouths can affect their life chances.

“The link between decay and deprivation is still going unchecked in England. We think all children deserve the best start, and government must do more than pay lip service to these shocking inequalities.”

The government recently announced 10 pilot preventive programmes in England targeting areas with high decay rates, but has not released any details of the scheme or pledged any dedicated funding.


[1.] Figures, where stated, are from YouGov Plc’s poll for the British Dental Association. Total sample size was 2028 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 8th-9th June 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
Full crosstabs available − press here.

Sample of responses:

Thinking generally about people applying for public/ client facing roles (e.g. receptionist, solicitor) in the UK...

Which, if any, of the following do you think would hinder someone's chances of getting a public/ client facing role? (Please select all that apply)
Visibly decayed or missing teeth 70%
Bad breath 62%
Being overweight 38%
"Casual"/ unkempt appearance 77%
Being underweight 7%
Women not wearing makeup 13%
People not adhering to dress-codes (e.g. suits, heels) 43%
None of these 4%
Don't know 7%
Net: Visibly decayed teeth/ Bad breath 77%

In general, to what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
Someone with visibly decayed or missing teeth and/ or bad breath would be at a disadvantage getting a job in a public/client facing role (e.g. receptionist, solicitor)
Don't know 3%
Net: Agree 83%
Net: Disagree 4%

Someone with visibly decayed or missing teeth and/ or bad breath would be at a disadvantage getting a job in any role
Don't know 3%
Net: Agree 62%
Net: Disagree 16%

Someone with visibly decayed or missing teeth and/ or bad breath would be at a disadvantage getting promoted at work, regardless of role
Don't know 5%
Net: Agree 60%
Net: Disagree 13%

For all other references click on the highlighted number in the text.

The British Dental association
The British Dental Association (BDA) is the professional association and trade union for dentists in the UK. It represents dentists working in general practice, in community and hospital settings, in academia and research, and in the armed forces, and includes dental students. The BDA promotes members’ interests, advances the science, arts and ethics of dentistry, and contributes towards improving the nation's oral health.

For more information about the BDA click here.