Two-Thirds of People Use Their Teeth Improperly

Dentistry Today


About two out of every three people (65%) frequently use their teeth for tasks other than eating and drinking, putting their oral health at risk, according to a survey conducted by the Oral Health Foundation and Philips as part of National Smile Month

The most common misuse of teeth is tearing tape, with 41% doing so regularly. Also 26% of people bite their nails, while 22% use their teeth to carry things when their hands are full. Taking tags out of clothing (20%), chewing pens and pencils (16%), opening bottles (9%), and opening and closing zippers (4%) also are common bad habits.

“Anything from opening bottles to chewing foreign objects can damage existing dental work or cause our teeth to crack,” said Dr. Nigel Carter, OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation.

“There are also examples of teeth shifting out of place, chipping, and in some cases breaking, due to the pressure and strain. Accidents are also more likely to happen, which could result in invasive and expensive emergency dental work,” said Carter.

“We should stick to using our teeth for what they were designed to do—chewing our food so that it’s more easily digestible. Our teeth also help us to talk and make sounds. They also give our face its shape. Because of this, we shouldn’t be doing anything that could unnecessarily jeopardize them,” Carter said.

Young adults are the biggest culprits when it comes to using teeth improperly, with 85% of 18- to 35-year-olds admitting to performing unusual tasks with their teeth, compared to 70% of 35- to 54-year-olds and 54% of those over the age of 55. 

The survey was conducted as part of National Smile Month, which promotes the benefits of a healthy smile. Its #habits4life initiative encourages everyone to adopt good habits to live healthier, happier, and longer lives.

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