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Kiwis Have Poor Dental Habits - Survey

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

We may like to think of ourselves as a nation that keeps its environment clean but when it comes to our own personal hygiene Kiwis are downright dirty according to new research.

The international Oral-B Powerbrush Survey showed that one in six Kiwis dislike cleaning their teeth, 82 percent said they don't floss once a day and three quarters of us didn't use a mouthwash daily, all signs we are flouting the most basic dental hygiene guidelines according to a top Auckland dentist. Dr Hisham Abdalla, an international lecturer in dentistry and director of the Laser Lifecare Institute says Kiwis are mistaken in thinking their dental health is their dentist's responsibility.

"The physical pain, psychological trauma and the financial and social costs of oral diseases are severe and endemic worldwide as well as in New Zealand. Most of these problems could be avoided or improved dramatically if we looked after ourselves better and were more conscientious in maintaining our oral health," he says

Dr Abdalla says poor oral healthcare habits can lead to gum disease, dental cavities and at worst oral cancer going untreated. There are more obvious and direct problems including; bad breath, unsightly smiles, bleeding and sore gums, tooth loss and decaying teeth, he says.

The research also showed around one in 10 admit to brushing less often than once a day, but despite our own poor dental habits we were pretty picky when it came to other people's mouths.

While more than nine out of ten (91%) Kiwis said a smile from a stranger could make our day brighter it had to be the 'right kind' with 77% of us saying yellow teeth ruined the effect! However, when it comes to our own appearance we're much more accommodating, more than eight out of ten (81%) Kiwis are happy with our own smile just the way it is and are not concerned with maintaining its appearance!

The study also investigated the teeth-cleaning habits of our U.S counterparts and the results showed that Americans, famous for their Hollywood smiles, are more discerning about their own dental care practices than Kiwis.

Only 11% of Kiwis surveyed said they were prepared to give up certain foods or beverages to prevent staining their teeth compared with more than a quarter of American respondents.

American's were also concerned about protecting their teeth. More than one third of those surveyed were prepared to give up their favourite foods and beverages to protect the enamel on their teeth, compared to just one in six (17%) Kiwis. In terms of permanent record however, Kiwis were slightly more cautious with more than one in five (22%) saying they avoid having their picture taken because they were self-conscious about their smile.

Parents from both countries were critical of their children's oral healthcare routines with one in four saying their children had "poor" habits or did a below par job of taking care of their mouth, teeth and gums.

Although few Kiwis enjoy brushing their teeth the majority of us like to improve the task by ensuring our brushes are in good order. More than eight out of ten (84%) of Kiwi respondents said they replaced their brush every three months as recommended by dentists and 92% of us brushed our teeth at least once a day.

Dr Abdalla says simply brushing our teeth is not good enough, doing it properly with the right technique and for the recommended two minutes and flossing in between teeth is essential to maintaining good oral health.

"We have on average 28-32 teeth in our mouths that become coated with a sticky plaque layer called biofilm. This sticky layer of bacteria and food debris builds up on our gum, tongue and cheeks and can be removed by brushing properly."

The bacteria that grows around the gum line can cause bad breath, gum and bone disease (bleeding gums and loose teeth) and is a critical part of the mouth to clean, says Dr Abdalla.

"Many people don't even know how to brush their teeth correctly. Power brushes are more efficient and easier to use correctly. Independent research has shown the rotating-oscillation technology they employ removes a significant amount of bacterial plaque," he says.

Despite our reluctance to pick up our toothbrush, floss or use mouthwash more regularly the research did give us something to smile about.

While parents regarded their children's dental hygiene as poor, more than nine out of 10 (91%) of the Kiwi respondents surveyed said a smile from their child could turn their mood from bad to good.

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