British Teeth vs American Teeth: Busting the Myth

A recent study published by the BMJ shows that American teeth are not only just as bad as British teeth, they may even be worse. The perceived difference between British teeth and American teeth has long been a convenient source of jokes on the Brits, both in casual American conversation and American pop culture. Austin Powers and his horrifying “British” smile is an impossible-to-forget case in point.

Where the Myth Originated

Where did America get the idea that all British people have terrible teeth? This perception could go all the way back to the introduction of sugar to the British upper classes in the 14th century. It’s been widely reported that in Victorian England it was fashionable to sport black teeth because it showed that a person had affluence enough to indulge in sugary sweets. Sugar was heavily taxed in England until 1874, so there is some evidence for this idea.

victorian england lady

The British Dental Association formed in 1879 when British dentistry began to rapidly evolve from a trade to a respectable profession. The Victorian era in England produced many important advances in dentistry, but American dentition remained appalling until after the second World War. Americans didn’t pick up the habit of brushing their teeth daily until soldiers brought the idea back from overseas.

An Englishman Invented the Toothbrush

The first toothbrush with any resemblance to the one you use today was actually invented by an Englishman named William Addis way back in the 1770’s. Addis, imprisoned at the time on charges of starting a riot, must have felt his teeth needed a serious scrub; he managed to produce an instrument fashioned from bone and hog bristles that did the job. The first patent for a toothbrush, however, went to an American named H.N. Wadsworth in 1857. The invention of nylon in the 1930’s made the modern toothbrush cheap and widely available, leading to vastly improved oral health for many Americans.

Good Dental Care Not Connected to Nationality

The current American obsession with blindingly white teeth may account for some of our misguided feelings of dental superiority, but America can’t claim better dental hygiene than the rest of the world. Good dental care is actually related to economic status and education, not nationality. Teach your children well America, and the next time you hear a joke about the British and their “terrible” teeth, remember William Addis and his hog bristles.

To keep your smile healthy, preventive care is important. At Carolina Smiles Family Dentistry, we believe preventive care and regular check-ups, as well as regular cleanings, are vital to keeping your smile healthy.

Call your dentist in West Columbia for a preventive appointment.

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