Bad Teeth? British Avoid Dentist, Study Finds

New data released by the British government reveal a striking number of British adults haven't been to the dentist in the past two years.

Perhaps the stereotype that the British have bad teeth has some truth to it after all.

A new study from the UK’s Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) says half of British adults haven’t been to a dentist in the last two years. Only 60% of British children saw a dentist in the year ending March 31, according to the data.

Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the faculty of Dental Surgery at London’s Royal College of Surgeons, said the data reveal a “decade of inertia” when it comes to dental care.

“It’s appalling that tooth decay remains the most common reason why five- to nine-year-olds are admitted to hospital; in some cases for multiple tooth extractions under general anaesthetic — despite tooth decay being almost entirely preventable,” Hunt said, in prepared comments issued by the college.

He called on the British government to launch an urgent review and public awareness campaign to encourage more Brits to get regular dental check-ups.

On this side of Atlantic, the numbers are better—though not by much.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2013 found just over 60% of adults had visited the dentist in the past year. The numbers are better when it comes to children. Four out of five children (83%) had seen the dentist the previous year.

However, the CDC also found that dental health varied widely based on racial and socioeconomic factors. For instance, about 31% of US adults earning incomes at a level above the federal poverty line had complete tooth retention. Only 15% of those living below the poverty line had the same.

Britain’s dental care, like its other healthcare offerings, is largely provided by the National Health Service. However, the Royal College of Surgeons suggested that the lack of regular dental care in the country was partly due to patient difficult accessing NHS dentists. It was also due to patient complacency, the college suggested.