Brits resort to paper clips instead of dental floss

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Oral care Oral hygiene

Although British consumers are spending increasing amounts of money
on products that whiten and enhance the appearance of their teeth,
a new survey shows that basic oral hygiene such as flossing is
being neglected, untapped untapped potential for oral care players.

Screwdrivers, earrings, needles, keys and paper clips were listed as some of the worst offending items used in place of dental floss, according to a survey recently published by the British Dental Health Foundation.

Although dentists have stressed the importance of using purpose-made dental flossing products, it seems that individuals will go to quite extraordinary lengths to avoid the routine on a regular basis.

The National Dental Survey reveals that if Brits have something stuck in their teeth they will generally resort to whatever is at hand in an effort to dislodge it, risking damage to gums.

Over 60 per cent of those surveyed said that they had used whatever was at hand to remove food, while a further 23 per cent chose to leave food that got stuck in their teeth.

The foundation says that this increases the risk of gum disease and can pose a major risk to oral health.

Dr. Nigel Carter, chief executive of the foundation said, "Clearly people really need to be educated on the importance of flossing."

Carter also stressed the importance of carrying outthe procedure properly.

"It is very important to be gentle, even when using proper dental floss, as jerking or snapping the floss in the gums can damage the gum tissue.

"The best thing to dislodge food from between the teeth with is interdental wood sticks, as these are shaped specifically for this purpose. However, cocktail sticks are not and should really be avoided."

Although using a screwdriver or paper clip to floss with may sound amusing, the implications to dental health are not so funny. But encouraging individuals to floss has been a long-fought battle, as making the procedure appear to be a care-free and worthwhile task is challenging.

But the potential for growth is there, purely because flossing forms such an integral part of dental health and individuals will go to great expense to ensure a healthy-looking smile.

In recent years the mainstay oral care categories, including toothpaste, toothbrushes and mouthwashes have only shown limited growth. Currently what is driving the market is niche products that focus on enhancing the appearance of teeth - in particular whitening products.

A recent survey from Mintel points to the fact that the main driving force behind a 118 per cent growth in niche oral care products in the last 4 years is teeth whitening products. The niche sector of the market, which also includes floss and dental gum, is now estimated to be worth £37m (€44m).

The survey also points out that the big rise in teeth whitening products is largely being driven by female consumers, with male consumers predominantly sticking to brushing their teeth with toothpaste twice a day and little else.

With the British market often acting as a precursor to the rest of Europe, it appears that there is still plenty of potential for oral care companies to market flossing products on an international basis, given their importance to overall oral health care.

The fact that individual consumers, especially men, are still not very well educated on the matter of flossing, also points to the fact that there is still plenty of potential to develop this particular niche.

The big challenge will be how to make flossing 'sexy'.

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