The tooth hurts: British teeth no worse than American, says study

Mike Myers shows off his winning smile in the 1999 film "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me."

Story highlights

  • Americans are missing more teeth than the British
  • Differences in national funding are a significant factor

(CNN)If "Austin Powers" is any indication, only a British spy could have jagged teeth the color of cheese and still be called a sex symbol.

But the century-old American stereotype -- that the English have terrible teeth -- has been disproved in a new study published in the British Medical Journal.
The British have reason to smile after researchers found their oral health was in some cases actually better than their U.S. counterparts in the study entitled "Austin Powers Bites Back."
    Britain Bad Teeth Myth

    The Simpsons: Ralph Wiggum is traumatized when a dentist shows him "The Big Book of British Smiles," featuring ever more yellowed and bloodied teeth.

    The Goldfinch: Donna Tartt's Pulitzer Prize winning novel features annoying English character Everett, noted for his "rabbit teeth."

    Austin Powers: The British spy wakes with new teeth after being cryogenically frozen and told: "There have been fabulous advances in the field of dentistry."

    South Park: When America is invaded by Britain, the English army is depicted with protruding, yellow teeth.

    The average number of missing teeth was higher in the United States at 7.31, while in the UK the average number was 6.97, according to researchers from both Harvard University and University College London.
    Thousands of adults on both sides of the Pond were examined by national dental teams, looking at factors such as pain, difficulty eating, and avoidance of smiling.
    Researchers also took into account education and income, finding that socioeconomic inequalities in dental health were significantly higher in the United States compared to the UK.
    They suggested this was due to differences in health care funding between the countries.
    While British dentistry is largely provided by the National Health Service, the United States is more reliant on dental insurance coverage.
    "In conclusion, we have shown that the oral health of Americans is not better than the English," the authors of the report said.
    "And there are consistently wider educational and income-related oral health inequalities in the U.S. compared with England."
    But while British gnashers may not be any worse than American pearly whites, the English people taking part in the study still believed the state of their mouths had a higher impact on their daily life.
    The long-running joke in the United States that the British have much worse teeth than Americans dates back over 100 years, said the authors of the report. They also pointed to modern-day examples such as "The Simpsons," which in one episode poked fun at "The Big Book of British Smiles."