5th June 2019

Most of us are putting our oral health at risk by using our teeth as tools for jobs they weren’t intended for, according to the findings of a new study.

Joint research by the Oral Health Foundation and Philips, as part of National Smile Month, finds that two-in-three of us (65%) frequently use our teeth for tasks other than eating and drinking.

The most common misuse for our teeth is tearing Sellotape – more than four-in-ten (41%) of us admit to doing this regularly.  More than one-in-four (26%) bite our nails while over a fifth (22%) use teeth to carry things when our hands are full (22%).

Other popular uses include taking tags out of clothing (20%), chewing pens and pencils (16%), opening bottles (9%) and doing up zips (4%).

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation says that while it may seem trivial, using our teeth as tools poses a considerable risk to our oral health.

Dr Carter says: “Anything from opening bottles to chewing foreign objects can damage existing dental work or cause our teeth to crack.

“There are also examples of teeth shifting out of place, chipping, and in some cases breaking, due to the pressure and strain. Accidents are also more likely to happen which could result in invasive and expensive emergency dental work.

“We should stick to using our teeth for what they were designed to do – chewing our food so that its more easily digestible. Our teeth also help us to talk and make sounds. They also give our face its shape. Because of this, we shouldn’t be doing anything that could unnecessarily jeopardise them.”

Young adults are the biggest culprits when it comes to using teeth in improper ways. More than four in five (85%) 18-35-year-olds admit to abusing their teeth by performing unusual tasks with them.  This is significantly higher than 35-54-year-olds (70%) and the over-55s (54%).

The results are part of National Smile Month, a nationwide health campaign that promotes the benefits of a healthy smile.

As part of the charity campaign, its organisers the Oral Health Foundation, alongside partners Philips, have joined together to create #habits4life – an initiative which encourages everybody to adopt good habits to live healthier, happier and longer lives.

Dr Ben Atkins, Dentist and Trustee of the Oral Health Foundation, believes that positive dental habits can have a wealth of benefits, not only for our oral health but also our overall wellbeing.     

Dr Atkins says: “By adopting as few as three simple habits, we can dramatically improve the health of our mouth, and our quality of life. Regularly visiting the dentist, brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, and reducing the amount and frequency of sugar in our diet, can transform our health for the better.

“National Smile Month is all about promoting the value of having good oral health and by taking on the messages of #habits4life we can achieve this in an easy and straightforward manner.”   

To find out more about National Smile Month 2019, visit www.smilemonth.org.

For more information about #habits4life, including how you can support the campaign, visit www.habits4life.org.uk.  On the website, there is a wealth of oral health information, in addition to competitions to win electric toothbrushes and free dental check-ups.   


  1. ORAL HEALTH FOUNDATION (2019) ‘National Smile Month Nationwide Survey 2019’, Atomik Research, May 2019, Sample 2,003.