Survey Says Brits Put Tooth Brushing Top

Health & Hygiene
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Oral Health Foundation Survey shows most Brits would rather brush teeth than exercise

Brushing their teeth has been ranked top of things Brits could not go a day without doing – according to the findings of a new nationwide poll. More than two-in-three UK adults, 68%, say they could not go a day without brushing their teeth, deeming it more than three times as important than exercise, as a daily task [1].

Brushing teeth was also judged to be more essential than eating breakfast (43%) and washing (41%). These are yet more findings gleaned from research conducted by the Oral Health Foundation to coincide with National Smile Month 17th May – 17th June, a campaign aimed at reducing dental disease by highlighting the importance of a healthy mouth.

Previous research by the Foundation suggests that as many as 97% of the population brush their teeth at least once per day [2]. Oral Health Foundation chief executive Dr Nigel Carter says: “For most people, the importance of brushing their teeth has been instilled in them since childhood. Like all habits, the earlier they are developed, the easier they are to keep throughout life.

“Toothbrushing is such a vital habit to get in to so I’m delighted to see it top the list of Britain’s most valued day-to-day tasks. Daily brushing and cleaning between your teeth are important because it removes plaque. If the plaque is not removed, it continues to build up, feeding on the bits of food left behind and causing tooth decay and gum disease.”

In the UK, almost one-in-three adults have tooth decay while 75% over the age of 35 are affected by gum disease. In total, 66% of British adults have visible plaque. If left untreated, tooth decay and gum disease can lead to tooth loss.

Dr Carter continues: “The best way to prevent tooth decay and gums disease, and keep your teeth for life, is by sticking to an effective oral health routine. Brushing should be done twice a day, with the most important time being last thing at night. Brushing should last two minutes and be done with a fluoride toothpaste.”

Further findings demonstrate that during the pandemic oral health declined far less than other areas of wellbeing. Only 12% say their oral health has deteriorated – four times less than those who believe the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health and weight.
Three times more people believe the pandemic had a negative effect on their exercise habits and twice as many believe their sex drive has been reduced. Oddly enough nearly twice as many people believe their eyesight has got worse.

Elaine Tilling, dental hygienist and the Clinical Education Manager for TePe oral hygiene products, suggests the pandemic has created a greater desire for self-care and prevention of disease.

She says: “So much has been out of our control during this time; but taking responsibility for your own health has been a necessity, which for many people has been a positive experience. Dental disease is preventable, and it is the importance of this that the pandemic has heightened.

“Taking the time needed to brush effectively and to clean between the teeth daily if practiced often enough helps to embed these habits for life.”

Dr Carter adds: “Lockdown has had a significant impact on many people’s physical and mental health. The good news for oral health is that it seems to have been relatively pandemic proof, declining far less than other areas of general wellbeing.

“With the recommended exception of regular dental visits, good oral health can be achieved at home. Along with keeping an eye on the amount and frequency of sugar consumption and snacking, an effective at-home oral health routine takes no more than five minutes a day – a relatively short amount of time when measured against the benefits.”

During National Smile Month, the Oral Health Foundation has been joined by some of the UK’s best known household brands, including Listerine, Invisalign, Corsodyl, Pronamel, Oral-B, Philips, TePe and the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme.

Information and resources about improving your oral health are available to download from the National Smile Month website at


1. Oral Health Foundation (2021) ‘National Dental Survey for National Smile Month’. Sample 2,009 UK adults.

2. Oral Health Foundation and Colgate (2020) ‘The Truth About Tooth Decay’. Sample 2,008 UK adults.