Was there a study showing tooth brushing frequency doesn't affect tooth decay?

It seems hard to believe, but Ray Orrock in the Oakland Tribune makes a passing reference in his column. (Note, for a link, it’s not online for at least 3 days, a problem I always have with with that paper.)

“In 1975, the government of Great Britain issued a report of the study of the brushing habits of 13,000 children. The report concluded that the frequency of brushing teeth has no impact at all on the incidence of tooth decay in children. Lord love a duck.”

(This is after Crest’s famous studies at Indiana University on young adults, which confirmed that fluoride strengthens teeth.)

While England has contributed a great deal to the world, with all due respect, I don’t think much of it has been in the area of oral hygiene. Given the state of British dental care I think I would give sooner greater weight to the Taliban’s opinions on the efficacy of brushing daily.

When I was a child my brushing habits were lacking…and I got my share of cavities.

Since I started brushing at least twice a day I have yet to get one.

As Astro alluded to, the Brits aren’t exactly well known for “excellent teeth”.

Some questions:

  1. Were the children brushing with fluoridated toothpaste?

  2. What exactly do they mean by “brushing frequency”? Never vs. once a day? Three times a day vs. ten times a day?

  3. Were they brushing properly, or just sorta inserting the toothbrush and moving it around some, as children often do?

  4. Has anybody attempted to replicate this study since 1975, and if so, what were the results?

More like if you don’t use toothpaste, there should be no change. If you brush most excellently, toothpaste isn’t necessary. Sure tastes nice, though.

Most people should brush for 5 minutes, few do.

I do imagine that there’s a point of diminishing returns; brushing ten times a day vs. brushing eight probably doesn’t make any difference. I wouldn’t be too shocked to find that the after-every-meals recommendation is a conspiracy perpetrated by the toothpaste and sugarless gum industries.

The fact that they were measuring brushing frequency seems to indicate that even the low-frequency kids were still brushing, probably each day.

Anecdotal evidence is worthless, of course, but as a kid I brushed religiously morning and night, and I still had at least one cavity each annual dentist visit. My sister, who had a hundred devious ways to avoid brushing her teeth (example–putting a dab of toothpaste on her tongue to pass Mom’s breathalizer test) had far fewer cavities than I. I suspect that accidents of genetics have more to do with it than diet, floride, or toothpaste brand. Happily, I haven’t had a cavity since I was twelve. (Anticipating a perfectly reasonable hypothesis, no, it wasn’t baby teeth vs. permanent teeth; I sport an impressive collection of silver amalgam in my upper molars to this day.)

" brushing ten times a day vs. brushing
eight probably doesn’t make any difference."

Its not how many times you brush, it how well you brush. Anyway 10 times is too much, it’s tough on the gums.