Survey reveals alternative ways Britons use their teeth

Britons are putting their oral health at risk by using their teeth as tools for jobs they weren’t intended for, according to the findings of a new study

Joint research by the Oral Health Foundation and Philips, as part of National Smile Month, has found that 65% of people frequently use their teeth for tasks other than eating and drinking.

Tearing Sellotape is the most common misuse for our teeth – more than 41% of people admit to doing this regularly.

More than 26% bite our nails and 22% use their teeth to carry things when their hands are full.

Other popular uses include taking tags out of clothing (20%), chewing pens and pencils (16%), opening bottles (9%) and doing up zips (4%).

‘Risk to oral health’

Chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, says that while it may seem trivial, using our teeth as tools poses a considerable risk to our oral health.

‘Anything from opening bottles to chewing foreign objects can damage existing dental work or cause our teeth to crack.

‘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.’

It was discovered that young adults are the biggest culprits when it comes to using teeth in improper ways.

More than four in five (85%) 18-35-year-olds admit to abusing their teeth by performing unusual tasks with them.

This is significantly higher than 35-54-year-olds (70%) and the over-55s (54%).

National Smile Month

The results are part of National Smile Month, a nationwide health campaign that promotes the benefits of a healthy smile.

As part of the charity campaign, its organisers the Oral Health Foundation, alongside partners Philips, have joined together to create #habits4life – an initiative which encourages everybody to adopt good habits to live healthier, happier and longer lives.

Dr Ben Atkins, dentist and trustee of the Oral Health Foundation, says that positive dental habits can have a wealth of benefits, not only for our oral health but also our overall wellbeing.

Dr Atkins says: ‘National Smile Month is all about promoting the value of having good oral health and by taking on the messages of #habits4life we can achieve this in an easy and straightforward manner.’

To find out more about National Smile Month 2019, visit

For more information about #habits4life, including how you can support the campaign, visit  On the website, there is a wealth of oral health information, in addition to competitions to win electric toothbrushes and free dental check-ups.


Atomik Research (2019) ‘National Smile Month Nationwide Survey 2019’, Oral Health Foundation, May 2019, Sample 2,003

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