Bad English teeth a myth, 'Austin Powers' study finds

17th December 2015, Comments 0 comments

A long-standing stereotype that English people have terrible teeth was busted on Thursday as a light-hearted study revealed that US citizens do not have better oral health than English people.

English characters with yellowed and crooked smiles have long been a stock joke in US books, film and television from The Simpsons to comic spy Austin Powers, but one with little basis in fact, it found.

"Contrary to popular belief, our study showed that the oral health of US citizens is not better than the English," wrote the authors of the study, called "Austin Powers bites back".

The study found that on average out of the thousands of men and women aged 25 and over who were surveyed, US citizens had slightly more missing teeth than English people -- 7.31 compared to 6.97.

The team of researchers from University College London, the National University of Colombia and the Harvard School of Public Health said the misleading view "dates back at least 100 years, with toothpaste adverts extolling the virtues of American smiles."

It found greater inequality in dental health in the United States, with rich people likely to have good teeth but poorer people much worse off, perhaps due to different access to health services.

"Those in the lowest socioeconomic position levels tended to be better off in England," the study found.

In Britain, dental care is largely provided through the publicly-funded National Health Service, unlike in the US where dental insurance predominates.

The study was received with glee in the British press.

"Smile! American teeth worse than ours" was the headline in The Times, while the Independent chose "In the teeth of American bias, our dentistry wins out".

"Experts claim Yanks are wrong to mock us for having wonky or missing gnashers," wrote The Sun.

Published in the British Medical Journal, the study examined the dental data from the Adult Dental Health Survey 2009 for England, and the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-08.

Factors analysed were the number of teeth each person was missing, how people rated their own oral health, and the impact of oral health on daily life.

The study only covered teeth in England, and not other parts of the United Kingdom.


© 2015 AFP

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