Monday, April 20, 2015

Teeth: America vs. Britain

 A longtime stereotype has been that British people have horrible, crooked teeth, while Americans are known for their straight, pearly whites. However, where did this cliche come from and is it really true that American teeth beat out British teeth in both looks and health?

Where did this stereotype begin for the Brits? Some would say that it dates all the way back to when the U.S. forces came to the U.K. during WWII they met many gap-toothed Brits due to a number of factors-food shortages, rationing, and poor nutrition. Many Americans came back with stories of British mouths of missing, crooked, and yellowing teeth. Another factor may be that although orthodontics are nothing new to the Brits, newer techniques like white strips and invisible braces were only deemed socially acceptable somewhat recently. Another major source behind the British teeth stereotype is the media, movies mainly. British actors and actresses staring in American films often don't don the typical "movie star smile" of perfect straight teeth.

Are American teeth really healthier? According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, in the past year, about seven in 10 people in Britain visited a dentist, while only four in 10 Americans did. The debate continues as Americans say that Brits are at the dentist more often because they have naturally worse, crooked teeth and that being chronic tea drinkers can take a toll on your teeth.

However, when looking at some statistics on tooth decay in both counties (completed by OECD), 28 percent of adults in England have tooth decay, while 92 percent of adults in America have tooth decay. A lower amount of decay means that you are more likely to keep your teeth. Statistically the British lose one less tooth than Americans on average. So far it seems that this stereotype is almost completely false in terms of tooth health.

The reasoning behind why the British have better tooth health can be explained by their National Health Service system.The NHS pays for "all clinically necessary treatment" and even non-necessary treatment is heavily subsidized. While American dental care is paid for by the individual, which can lead to fewer and less frequent visits.

Are American teeth really straighter? So British teeth seem to be healthier overall, but stylistically Americans win. It is the norm in America for kids to begin their orthodontics as early as third grade, to ensure they will be an adult with a perfectly straight, white smile. Orthodontics in Britain are not as common, as they don't value the "movie star" smile as much as Americans. Also, the Brits are more concerned with tooth health than aesthetic.

About the Author: Sam is a guest contributor from Derksen Dentistry, providing personalized dental care for all your dental needs. Learn more at

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