04 JUNE 2019

A smile is one of the first things we notice, both for ourselves and in others.  Our ability to show off our smile is not only a sign of friendliness and trust, it’s also important for our mental health and self-esteem. Sadly, many of us choose to hide our smile, often because of the insecurities we have about the way it looks.

New research by the Oral Health Foundation and GSK as part of National Smile Month, has revealed the biggest anxieties we have about our oral health.  It’s important to remember that most of these fears can easily be prevented, some have simple treatments while others are quite natural and have false stigmas attached to them.  Here are the UK’s four most common smile anxieties, along with what we can do to help put ourselves at greater ease.

Tooth loss

Dreaming of our teeth falling out is often listed as one of the most common nightmares so it’s therefore unsurprising that tooth loss comes top in our list of smile anxieties.  According to a new study, more than two-in-three of us (68%) worry about the impact of tooth loss and the lasting effect it will have on our smile.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation says: “Missing teeth, specifically front teeth, can have a significant impact on our confidence to smile.  

“The good news is that preventing tooth loss can be relatively simple.  By cleaning our teeth twice-a-day with a fluoride toothpaste, reducing the amount and frequency of sugar we consume and visiting the dental practice regularly can help keep gum disease and decay (the leading causes of tooth loss) at bay.  Mouthwashes can also help treat gum disease, the main cause of tooth loss.”

White teeth

Social media, celebrities and reality television have all helped create the illusion that white teeth are a sign of healthy teeth.  Nearly three-in-four (74%) of us believe that white teeth are a sign of healthy teeth.  Not only is this untrue but it seems to be having a negative affect on how we view our smile.

Dr Soha Dattani, Director Scientific & Professional Affairs at GSK Consumer Healthcare says: “For a long time, celebrity culture has promoted unhealthy and unrealistic body images, particularly for younger people.  This influence is now extending to oral health and specifically teeth.

“While tooth whitening is an affordable and effective option for giving our smile that extra sparkle, it’s important to remember that the health of our teeth is not determined by how white they are.  In fact, pearly white teeth are just as susceptible to decay as natural-looking teeth.”

Bad breath

The thought of bad breath makes most of us feel self-conscious, and there is good reason for this.  Many of us have been with a family member, friend or colleague whose breath gives off an unfavourable scent, so we are all highly conscious about how unpleasant it can be.

Our study shows that nine-in-ten (90%) British adults are concerned about having bad breath and the impact this has on their personal and professional lives.

Dr Carter adds: “If teeth aren’t brushed correctly and regularly, lingering food particles and bacteria are allowed to build up. It is this rotten food and bacteria that goes on to create an unpleasant odour.

“A simple test for bad breath is to lick the inside of the wrist. Let it dry and take a sniff. If the smell is unpleasant, then it is a good sign that the breath is too.  In addition to brushing teeth, chewing sugar free gum and introducing a daily mouthwash routine can also help keep breath fresh.”

Tooth enamel

Tooth enamel is the protective layer over our teeth.  It can be softened by acidic foods and drinks, particularly fizzy drinks, alcohol and fruit juices, leading to tooth wear.  Exposing the roots and nerves, enamel loss can be painful and lead to highly sensitive teeth. It can also be costly to treat

Worryingly nearly half of us [49%] believe that enamel can be rebuilt once lost.

Dr Dattani says: “Our body cannot regenerate enamel as it doesn’t contain any living cells. As a result, enamel cannot be replaced and instead requires costly restorations.

“Thanks to advanced technology in oral healthcare, it is possible to reduce enamel loss by promoting rehardening post acid challenge.  Toothpastes like Sensodyne Pronamel help reharden tooth enamel to reduce the potential for wear.  This helps give our teeth that extra toughness they might need.”

Tooth loss, whitening, bad breath and enamel loss should all be discussed with our dental professional. Keeping regular appointments is really important. Not only can dental professionals help advise us on treatments and procedures, they can also make sure any small problems don’t go on to develop into something more serious.

More information about National Smile Month can be found at www.smilemonth.org

Useful Resources


1. Oral Health Foundation (2019) ‘National Smile Month Survey 2019’, Atomik Research, United Kingdom, Sample Size 2,003