More than half of British adults (51%) often are made to feel anxious about how their smile looks, according to a survey by the Oral Health Foundation (OHF). The organization blames television and social media, which cause 31% of people to feel inadequate about their smile.
Also, the OHF reports that 17% of those it surveyed have received negative comments from their family about how their smile looks. Other influences include comments from partners (14%), friends (13%), and colleagues (9%), with 10% subjected to unkind remarks about their teeth from strangers.
To combat this low self-esteem, the OHF has named May 13 through June 13 National Smile Month, a charity campaign that aims to get Great Britain smiling again while promoting the benefits of a healthy mouth.
“It often gets overlooked, but having the confidence to smile plays such an important role in our everyday life. A smile communicates a sign of friendship, trust, and acceptability. It also has a significant impact on our relationships, careers, and social life. Sadly, too many of us hide our smile because we feel uncomfortable with its appearance,” said Dr. Nigel Carter, OBE, chief executive of the OHF.
“In the media and online, pearly white and straight teeth have become the norm for how our teeth need to look. This should not be the case. Most celebrities we see on television undergo routine cosmetic treatments on their smile, while filters on social media can make teeth appear whiter than they actually are,” said Carter.
“It all promotes unrealistic expectations of what a healthy smile looks like, and it is clearly having a negative effect on how confident we are when it comes to showing ours off. A smile represents feelings of happiness and joy. This is something to be cherished and not be made to feel anxious about,” said Carter.
The survey shows that younger people are more likely to worry about the appearance of their teeth, the OHF says, with 87% of those under the age of 35 reporting that they have been made to feel self-conscious about their smile. This age group also is more than twice as likely to be influenced by celebrities and television personalities.
The OHF further found that only 29% of British adults are likely to pose for a photograph with an open-mouth smile, with discolored teeth (33%) being the biggest reason why.
“Owning a beautiful smile is about more than aesthetics. Having a clean mouth, strong teeth, and healthy gums are so much more important than the color or shape of our teeth,” said Carter.
“During National Smile Month, we are working with Philips to promote #habits4life. This campaign is focusing on adopting three simple habits of twice daily toothbrushing with a fluoride toothpaste, reducing our sugar intake, and keeping to regular dental visits,” said Carter.
“By adopting a few simple oral health habits, we can transform the health of our mouth and significantly improve our quality of life. It will also give us the reassurance we need to make sure we show off our smile with confidence,” said Carter.
National Smile Month also will see thousands of dedicated oral health events held across the United Kingdom. It is being supported by GSK, Oral-B, and Wrigley.