30 May 2023

More than half (51%) of UK adults skip toothbrushing once a week, according to new findings from the Oral Health Foundation.

Research as part of the charity’s National Smile Month campaign shows that the UK might be a nation of skippers when it comes to toothbrushing, with around one-in-eight (13%) not brushing their teeth regularly – at least three times a week.  

People are more than twice as likely to miss out on brushing their teeth at night (39%), compared to the morning (19%), a habit which could leave their teeth in tatters.

The nationwide data into the UK’s brushing habits also reveals that younger adults are far more likely to skip brushing. Two-in-three (65%) under 35s miss out of brushing their teeth once a week, compared to four-in-ten (40%) of over 55s.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation explains why skipping brushing, especially at night, is a recipe for disaster.

Dr Carter says: “Brushing our teeth is the cornerstone to having good oral health because it removes plaque.  When we decide not to brush our teeth, plaque is not removed and is allowed to build up, causing conditions like tooth decay and gum disease.

“Cleaning our teeth at night, just before we go to bed, is the most important brush of the day. This is because health of the mouth is most likely to deteriorate due to the hours of sleep, as salvia flow reduces, and bacteria multiplies. This makes removing food, plaque and bacteria from the mouth an essential task before our head hits the pillow.”

Further findings from the Oral Health Foundation’s research shows nearly one-in-four (24%) UK adults mostly brush their teeth once a day.  Data also shows that men (69%) are far less likely to brush their teeth twice a day, versus women (82%).

Worryingly, one-in-ten (10%) people brush their teeth for only one minute or less, compared to the standard recommended two minutes.

The charity is raising awareness about the importance of twice daily brushing as part of National Smile Month.  The charity campaign is running under the theme of Brush for Better Health and is encouraging more people to brush twice daily.

Despite the health benefits of toothbrushing, many people do still not consider it a priority.

Poor toothbrushing habits are a key factor for two-in-three (66%) UK adults having visible plaque, almost one-in-three (31%) suffering from signs of tooth decay, and three-in-four (74%) having had teeth extracted.

“Dental disease is almost entirely preventable with a simple and effective daily oral hygiene routine,” adds Dr Carter.

“The most important step we can take is to brush our teeth for two minutes, last thing at night and one other time during the day, with fluoride toothpaste. Don’t rush the brush, we should take our time and make sure all the surfaces of the teeth have been covered.

“When we’re finished, spit out the excess toothpaste and do not rinse with water. This is important because it keeps the fluoride in the mouth, protecting us from tooth decay.

“A good oral health routine also means cleaning between our teeth every day with interdental brushes or floss and also cutting down how often and how much sugary foods and drinks we have.