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News / May 20, 2008


by Guy Hiscott

Flossing while driving, opening bottles with the teeth, ignoring bleeding gums and using knives, paper clips and lollipop sticks to pick the teeth are just some of the bad habits revealed among people in Belfast by this year’s National Dental Survey.

The survey, conducted by the British Dental Health Foundation and Oral B, marks the beginning of National Smile Month (18 May to 17 June).

The global campaign is running simultaneously in the UK and USA this year with the ‘Brush for Health’ theme being used to raise awareness of the link between oral health and serious general conditions such as diabetes, strokes, heart disease and low birth weight babies.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Foundation, commented: ‘It is National Smile Month but these results do not give people in Belfast a great deal to smile about.

‘People are putting themselves at risk with these shocking habits – yet around 85% of people are completely unaware of the link between the health of the mouth and the health of the body.

‘Gum health, in particular, is very important and has been linked to a range of conditions. However, people are risking their gum health by picking and flossing without paying the necessary care and attention.

‘A worrying 13% of people in Belfast admit they have flossed while driving, 9% while on a date and a significant number of people have used every day items such as knives, paper clips and pencils to pick food from between their teeth – risking cuts and infection.

‘Couple that with the fact that 26% of people have opened a bottle with their teeth and you can see that people really are risking their oral health with bad dental habits.’

The survey also found that 40% of people in Belfast suffer with bleeding gums and almost half of those simply ignore it or brush their teeth more softly to avoid aggravating it.

Dr Carter continued: ‘Bleeding gums are a sign of a poor oral healthcare routine. People need to brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, cut down how often they have sugary foods and drinks and visit the dentist regularly, as often as they recommend if they want to keep their gums and body healthy.

‘If a person is suffering with bleeding gums they should not brush more softly. They simply need to make sure they are brushing well, for two minutes at a time and covering all the surfaces of the teeth. Cleaning between the teeth can also help using floss or interdental brushes.

‘The message of the campaign is Brush for Health and people need to take that literally if they are to stay healthy. Remember, your mouth and your body talk – so look after them both!’

The Foundation is working alongside Oral Health America to launch National Smile Month in the USA for the first time this year.

For more information on National Smile Month visit the website