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Why don't Chinese people pay attention to dental health?

Updated on June 13, 2010

Chinese and Dentists

One of the things that is glaringly obvious in China is the poor quality of dental health. Just look at any of the sea of faces anywhere in China and you are likely to see a mouth full of awful teeth.

I can understand that over the years when the country was very poor, that dental health was not high on the priority list and you can see that with the older population who have many missing teeth, or "steel caps" on their teeth.

However, I see so many young people whose dental health is very wanting. My students are in the 16 - 22 age group, and many have wealthy parents, and there is a fair share of students from families from very limited incomes.

Extra ordinary there is a very strong focus on health. They do so many things that they believe are good for their "healthy" (Oh, how I try to get them to say "health" in this context!!), but somehow dental health seems to be not part of this agenda for many.

I've never seen young people in Australia with the obvious dental problems that I see here. And yes, we know that dental care is expensive in Australia too. Free dental care is available but you often wait years or months for care through the free system.

In China it is common to see a student at high school with black or green teeth, obvious cavities, and red bleeding gums.

China needs a good dental health care program - they need to save the teeth of millions of young people, and take better care of the millions of older people with dental problems.

Sure, some students have naturally perfect teeth, and some clearly have parents with the funds to pay for dental care. Some students even have "bands" to help straighten misshapen teeth. But clearly there is a great need for more work to be done.

(Strangely there is a growing anger with some Chinese about the amount of money spent on such things as the Olympics in 2008, and recently Expo in Shanghai) when health and education are being neglected.)

One study (in Wuhan, China) reports : "Clinical examinations of grade 1 children (age 6, n=381) and grade 6 children (age 12, n=413) were performed. At age 6, 86 per cent of the children were affected by dental caries and at age 12 the mean DMFT index was 1.0. Personal interviews with the mothers (n=691) showed that dental care habits of children were poori 22 per cent of all children brushed their teeth twice a day and 20 per cent had seen the dentist within the pa$t 12 months. Very few children (4 per cent) had practical support from their parents in daily toothcleaning." Source

There are other interesting studies reported on this WHO website.

Another website reports:

"Most Chinese children suffer from tooth diseases, according to a recent national survey conducted by a group of local dental experts.

In China, 76.55 percent of the five-year-olds have had decayed teeth, at an average of four each, the survey shows.

The incidence of dental problems among teenagers is also serious, with 85 percent of middle school students suffering from periodontal difficulties.

The survey found that one-third of all Chinese still do not have the habit of regularly brushing their teeth.

The increase in the consumption of sugar and the decline in coarse food grain intake in the Chinese diet has caused the prevalence of dental problems, according to the experts, who fear that this trend may continue if effective measures are not taken. To tackle the problem, the Ministry of Public Health plans a series of campaigns urging people to take better care of their teeth."
. Source :

These statistics are rather scary. There's clearly a lot to do re dental health here. Students do say they clean their teeth, but clearly they don't do it well. Many students live in school dormitories without the daily reminders that a mother or father might give.

In any case, whatever the reason, there are huge problems and it does appear that not enough is being done to help the young people of China.

Chinese men are heavy smokers, and the teeth staining is obvious - with men revealing very yellow/brown teeth when they smile or speak.  Awful.  Sad.  The Chinese government is trying to make some changes to the smoking culture, and next year it will be prohibited to smoke is certain public places. 

They must do more!!!


I found this on another website under definition for Chinese Dentist

A mythical person who is said to exist in remote areas of China, but has never been sighted by a reputable source. If existent, he would fix teeth and make them look better. The evidence just simply isn't there to announce he's real.

Source :


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    • profile image

      SarahBodo 5 years ago

      A dentist is a mythical person? I find this really funny. It is however sad that an able country like China has people that don't care about simple healthy habits, like looking after their teeth.

    • Aussieteacher profile image

      Di 6 years ago from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

      I think that if we go into the lower socio economic areas of our own countries we will see appalling teeth - you often see them on TV - with one or two teeth left in their heads, or protruding or black. Ugh.

    • World-Traveler profile image

      World-Traveler 6 years ago from USA

      I have seen this all too often while travelling in South Asia.

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 7 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      Thank you for relating this information. I never realized. One would think that for a few cents worth of toothpaste and a couple minutes a day the kids could learn to do a little better.