Q: Who Has Better Teeth: Americans or the English?

Austin Powers

The answer is obvious, right? For anyone who’s been a consumer of any kind of American pop culture, you surely know that the British have a stereotype for having terrible teeth.

How sure are you about your answer though? It might surprise you to know that Americans have caught up with and even surpassed the English in some respects for having bad smiles.

According to a recent study, the oral health of Americans is no better than that of the British. London professor Richard Watt teamed up with English and researchers as well as a team from Harvard and did a cross sectional analysis of oral health care surveys on both sides of the Atlantic. The team’s motivation was to see whether the British really did suffer from bad teeth more than Americans. A few of the interesting findings from the study are as follows:

• Americans are missing more teeth than their British counterparts. On average (and this is factoring in people with no teeth, people missing many teeth, etc.) the English are missing 6.97 teeth per person while Americans are missing 7.31 teeth.
• Oral health generally is directly related to socioeconomic status. This relationship is much stronger in the United States than in England.
• Adults in the lowest socioeconomic levels have better teeth in England. Adults in the highest socioeconomic levels have better teeth in the United States.

http://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h6543

British researchers were quick to conclude from the data that England has caught up and even surpassed the United States in oral health care delivery.

My take: I think the study is solid and I’ll accept the fact that basic preventative and restorative dental care in England and the United States are similar, but this study says nothing about cosmetic procedures and orthodontic care. We place such a high emphasis on aesthetics in our country, that I doubt England is anywhere near a comparable level. Taking care of staining and misaligned teeth is still very much an American thing. We still have the best teeth for now.

-Nicolas K. Young, DMD