The Oral Health Index - The World's Most ‘Teeth Conscious’ Countries
Which countries take the best care of their dental hygiene?
This study was conducted by Kent Express, the UK’s leading mail order dental supplier, who specialise in teeth whitening, dental and medical healthcare products, services and supplies. If you’d like to re-publish any of the graphics used in this content, please get in touch and we’ll send you an embed code.
According to the British Dental Association, 30 million dentist appointments were missed in the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, equivalent to around 70% of all appointments. Health campaigners have raised fears that this could be particularly harmful to children and conditions such as mouth cancer could go unnoticed.
Tooth decay and gum disease are more common problems that come from neglecting dental hygiene. While looking after our teeth properly, with very little work required, can result in them lasting us into old age.
To raise awareness of pandemic-related dental issues and to see how the UK compares to other countries, Kent Express compiled The Oral Health Index: the most "teeth conscious" countries.
Our findings highlight the importance placed on dental hygiene around the world, and how each nation’s habits affect its dental health.
How we did it
We compiled a list of the top 20 countries for dental care after analysing a complete global ranking list of the most teeth-conscious countries. This was based on data highlighting the number of dentists per 10,000 people, sugar consumption, the prevalence of current tobacco use and the average number of dentist visits per person each year. A combination of all this data gave us a teeth-conscious score out of 100, indicating which countries place the most importance on their dental health.
The data was readily available and came from sources such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service, The Department of Economic and Social Affairs in the United States, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and The World Bank. The difficulty was making masses of data clear and easy to understand.
Coming out on top as the most teeth-conscious country is Qatar, with one of the lowest sugar consumption rates in the world, a low proportion of people smoking and a large number of dentists at the community’s disposal.
The UK ranks 68th on the index, only seven places above the USA, which is renowned for its sugary diet. People in the US, on average, consume almost 73 pounds (33kg) of sugar each year. This is equal to three pounds (640g) of sugar a week*. The UK in comparison, have an overall teeth conscious score of 54.3 with 5.3 dentists per 10,000 people and an annual sugar consumption of up to 22.1kg per capita.
Guatemala, in Central America, is ranked the least teeth-conscious country, consuming 436kg of sugar per person per year, which is equivalent to almost half a million teaspoons. The country scores a mere 12.6 on the index, compared to Qatar’s score of 80.8.
North Korea, Germany and Uzbekistan have the lowest sugar consumption per person per year, totalling 310 teaspoons between them. Eating 280 times this amount of sugar each year, the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines tops the list for sugar consumption.
Japan has the highest number of dentist consultations per year with three per person, closely followed by the Netherlands and Israel. Meanwhile, Portugal, Mexico and Costa Rica have the lowest.
Sweden, San Marino, Cuba and Argentina have the highest number of dentists per 10,000 people, while Mali, Uganda and Equatorial Guinea have the fewest dentists.
Chris Moffatt, dental expert at Kent Express, says:
“Our report reveals the shocking state of our oral health compared to other countries. Most of us know we should brush twice a day and floss regularly, but few of us understand the true impact that sugar has on our teeth.
Education and legislation both offer a way forward. In 2020 it became compulsory for UK schools to include oral health education in the curriculum, and this is expected to have a significant impact on children’s health.
When the soft drink ‘sugar tax’ was introduced in 2018, half of manufacturers took action to reformulate their products. We’re going in the right direction, but more needs to be done.”
Below you can find the full table of results, with countries ranked by how “teeth-conscious” they are. Please note that this study uses the most up-to-date publicly available data.
Which countries visit the dentist the most often?
Data sourced from The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that Japan had the highest number of annual visits to the dentist per person. A separate study, the inaugural 2021 Global Healthy Thinking Report by international oral healthcare company Sunstar, supports the case for Japan’s high level of dental hygiene. The report found that only 12% of people in Japan have missed dental appointments during the pandemic, the lowest worldwide**.
The Netherlands closely followed Japan for average dental visits per year, with three visits. According to Maaike van Schaik, of Amsterdam dental clinic Tandarts Jordaan, the Dutch approach to dental care is very much focused on prevention, trying to stop problems developing in the first place.
Which countries visit the dentist the least often?
Our analysis found that out of the 38 countries data was collected for, the UK ranks 29th for the number of dentist appointments attended.
The situation in the UK seems to be worsening, as a new report by Mydentist (the largest provider of NHS dentistry) reveals millions of Britons are missing out on the professional care they need. One in five people have even taken dental treatments into their own hands, according to The Great British Oral Health Report. It surveyed 2,026 adults and revealed 53% have not seen a dentist in the past year, with 56% of these saying it was because they were unable to access one***.
Chris Moffatt continues: “We’re among the bottom 10 countries in the world when it comes to visiting the dentist. Regular dental examinations are vital to help maintain healthy teeth, together with good oral hygiene practices at home.”
The Oral Health Index analysed the conditions associated with poor oral hygiene across 185 countries, to determine which nations place most importance on dental care. Although 185 countries were analysed in total, we selected 178 to feature in the index.
The countries selected had provided sufficient information on a range of factors, including tobacco prevalence and sugar consumption. Data-driven research such as this must take into account the lack of reporting in many countries.
Four categories were used to analyse how dental hygiene-conscious each country was:
- Dentists per 10,000 people
- Sugar consumption per capita
- Average number of dentist consultations per year per person
- Prevalence of current tobacco use (% of adults)
Additionally, the equivalent sugar consumption in teaspoons was included to give readers a clearer idea of the amounts involved.Each factor contributed a score to a country’s overall ranking. The country closest to a score of 100 was considered the most teeth-conscious country and the lowest-scoring country was considered the least teeth-conscious nation.
Dentists per 10,000 people
- This was our most comprehensive dataset, which analysed a total of 191 countries. The countries that weren’t included in the index didn’t have sufficient information on sugar consumption and other factors to warrant making the final list.
- The data was extrapolated from the most recent WHO data, which was last updated on 17/02/2021. The figures only include practising dentists or all those registered in the healthcare field in 2019, which is the last year when this information was collated.
- Data was sourced from the United States Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service’s Sugar - Commodities/Products report, which was last updated on 18/11/2021. The dataset provides information on domestic consumption in metric tonnes.
- The sugar in metric kilograms referred to in the index was based on the UN population estimate for 2020, which was sourced from the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs Population Dynamics.
- From the kg per capita figures, we were able to calculate the equivalent number of teaspoons of sugar (assuming 1 tsp sugar is 4g sugar)
Number of dentist appointments attended
- This dataset was extracted from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report titled: Health Care Utilisations - Consultations. We analysed the dentist consultations variable and used the per capita measure.
- The latest available data is from 2020.
Prevalence of current tobacco use worldwide
- Tobacco prevalence across the globe was extrapolated from World Bank figures on the prevalence of current tobacco use (% of adults). They include the percentage of each country’s population aged 15 years plus who currently use any tobacco product (smoked and/or smokeless tobacco) on a daily or non-daily basis.
- The data was last updated in 2018 and is the latest available data for global tobacco prevalence.
- * Sugar consumption in the US: New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services
- ** Missed dentist appointments in Japan
- *** Mydentist report on the UK and dental health