News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


Dental Health Survey Shows Kiwis Have Nothing to Smile About

February 28, 2012

Dental Health Survey Shows Kiwis Have Nothing to Smile About

A new survey into the dental health of Kiwis has revealed that more than 80% of us have cavities with many failing to brush, floss or rinse and the majority suffering from early signs of gum disease.

The Oral-B Powerbrush Survey investigated the oral hygiene habits of New Zealanders and the results show Kiwis are ignoring the most basic dental hygiene guidelines according to experts.

The study showed oral health issues were common with more than eight out of 10 (81%) Kiwis having had cavities, more than half (51%) experiencing bleeding gums – a common sign of gingivitis - and a further four out of 10 (42%) admitting to having bad breath at some stage.

Just over half (55%) of Kiwis brush their teeth the dentist recommended twice per day and around one third (36%) brush once per day. One in 10 (10%) Kiwis brush less often than once a day.

Dr Hisham Abdalla, an Auckland based international lecturer in dentistry, says he is disappointed that so few of us take care of our teeth and that the financial and social costs of oral diseases are an increasing burden on society.

“The obvious problems are things like bad breath, unattractive smiles, bleeding and sore gums, tooth loss and decayed teeth. However, poor oral health can also lead to gum disease which can seriously affect general health,” says Dr Abdalla.

“Gum disease does not hurt usually, but can progress to destroying the jaw bone over time leading to tooth loss. Gum disease over a period of time increases the person’s risk for many other diseases,” he says.

The study found that more than eight out of 10 (82%) people floss less often than once a day, with only 4% of Kiwis flossing twice a day. Mouthwash use has a similar profile as flossing in frequency with 85% not using mouthwash once a day and 5% using it twice per day.

It’s no surprise then that more than half of us (55%) visit the dentist or dental nurse less often than once a year.

More than eight out of 10 (84%) of us said the thing we liked least about visiting the dentist was the cost! This was followed by pain (13%) and the inconvenience of having to find the time during the day (9%).

“Our mouths are full of bacteria and the food we eat leaves debris. Failing to clean this away properly means the leftover food debris sits in our mouths and begins to rot. We need to brush this away along with the sticky bacteria called biofilms if we want to stay healthy, have fresh breath and be presentable,” says Dr Abdalla.

Nearly two thirds of respondents (65%) said they didn’t mind the routine of brushing their teeth, however for 5% of New Zealanders it was a chore they tended to dread.

Despite these results more than half (54%) of Kiwis rated their overall oral health as good. A further 16% said it was excellent with nearly one third (30%) rating their oral health as fair or poor.

Most of us (69%) agree our parents did a good to excellent job of instilling oral hygiene habits. There was also a noticeable improvement from having being taught those habits to passing them onto our own children. Nearly eight out of 10 (79%) parents believed they are doing a slightly better job at educating their children on dental hygiene than their parents did.

Despite finding that a great many of us weren’t taking good care of our own smiles, it is a desired attribute in a soul mate. More than nine out of 10 (91%) Kiwis said having a nice smile is important when it comes to finding a partner.

When it came to voting for a New Zealander with the most powerful smile, the results were surprising. More than four out of 10 (43%) respondents voted rugby star Richie McCaw as having the most powerful smile. McCaw bet Prime Minister John Key at 38%, Sir Peter Jackson at 9% and Graham Henry and Helen Clark, both at 5%.

Psychologist Sara Chatwin says it’s likely Richie McCaw’s smile was perceived the most powerful due to New Zealand’s iconic sporting status.

“Kiwis are particularly fond of our sports heroes and similarly we tend to define ourselves by our sports and sporting achievements. Sports people tend to be seen as non-contentious, feel-good types with whom we would all like to associate”.

Dr Abdalla says the proper routine is brushing the gums and teeth with a soft brush or power brush twice a day for two minutes, flossing once a day and using an alcohol free mouthwash once or twice a day.

“The brush should be soft and small and ideally a power brush, like the Oral-B Triumph Power Brush. They are small, soft and the oscillating-rotating heads are much more efficient in removing sticky, bacteria infected food debris (plaque) in the prescribed two minutes. I find Oral B Power Brushes easier to use than a manual toothbrush too.”

The survey was carried out in conjunction with Oral-B’s most technologically advanced toothbrush - the Oral-B Triumph with Smart Guide. This brush is embedded with microchips which track how consumers are brushing and sends a signal wirelessly to the remote control display which provides while-you-brush real-time feedback.

*The Oral-B Powerbrush Survey
The December 2011 Perceptive Omnibus surveyed 1,000 New Zealanders online using a nationwide sampling framework, the results were then weighted to Statistics New Zealand census gender, age and location data.

About Dr Hisham Abdalla

Dr Hisham Abdalla is an Auckland based dentist.

Dr Abdalla is an invited Associate Professor at Cagliari University in Sardinia, Italy and an affiliate member of the American Dental Association. He is an internationally respected Speaker, Author and Educator in the fields of Laser dentistry, Minimally Invasive preventative dentistry, High-tech dentistry, CEREC and Cosmetic dentistry. He is the accredited course provider and examiner for The Queensland University Laser Certification program.

Dr Abdalla is known for his pioneering ideas, strong motivation and passion for research and knowledge. He was nominated by his colleagues at the Auckland Dental Association for NZDA Young Dentist of the Year in 2005. A year later in 2006 he represented New Zealand as a finalist at the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons Young Lecturer of the Year Award. Other honours include a Fellowship and Diplomat status from the World Congress of Minimally Invasive Dentistry. He served as a past Directors Board member of the organisation in the USA.

He is a Founding member of the NZ Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, founding member and past Vice president of the NZ Institute of Minimal Intervention Dentistry, Fellow of the World Clinical Laser Institute, member of the Auckland and New Zealand Dental Associations.

Dr Abdalla graduated with honours from Charles University in Prague with a Medical University Doctor of Stomatology (dentistry).


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Howard Davis: Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman'

The Guardian needed not one, but three reviews to do justice to Fennell's unsettling approach, which indicates exactly how ambiguous and controversial its message really is. More>>

Howard Davis: Jill Trevelyan's Rita Angus

Although Angus has become one of Aotearoa’s best-loved painters, the story of her life remained little known and poorly understood before Jill Trevelyan's acclaimed and revelatory biography, which won the Non Fiction Award at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 2009, and has now been republished by Te Papa press. More>>

Howard Davis: The Back of the Painting

Painting conservators are the forensic pathologists of the art world. While they cannot bring their subjects back to life, they do provide fascinating insights into the precise circumstances of a painting's creation, its material authenticity, and constructive methodology. More>>

Howard Davis: Black Panthers on the Prowl

A passionate and gripping political drama from Shaka King, this is an informative and instructive tale of human frailty that centers around the charismatic Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who was murdered at the age of twenty-one during a police raid. More>>

Howard Davis: Controlling the High Ground

Stephen Johnson's raw and angry film not only poses important questions with scrupulous authenticity, but also provides a timely reminder of the genocidal consequences of casual bigotry and xenophobia. More>>

Howard Davis: Dryzabone - Robert Conolly's The Dry

After the terrible devastation caused by last year’s bushfires, which prompted hundreds of Australians to shelter in the ocean to escape incineration and destroyed uncountable amounts of wildlife, The Dry has been released during a totally different kind of dry spell. More>>

Howard Davis: Hit the Road, Jack - Chloé Zhao's Nomadland

Nomadland is perhaps the ultimately 'road' movie as it follows a group of dispossessed and disenfranchised vagabonds who find a form of communal refuge in camp sites and trailer parks after the economic contraction of 2008. More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland