Are There More Smartphones Than Toothbrushes?

It has been said that there are more people with mobile phones than there are with toothbrushes. It’s a shocking statistic that speaks volumes for this high-tech world that we live in and it makes for some great headlines, but it’s also very misleading. According to this often-quoted statistic, there are anywhere from 500 million to 1 billion more smartphone owners than there are toothbrush owners.

However, things are never that simple and there are many issues here. So, let’s see if we can settle this issue once and for all and highlight the problems with this statistic.

It’s Fundamentally Flawed

We may live in a high-tech, interconnected, globalized world, but we don’t have data on every single person alive. Facebook and Google seem hellbent on changing that, but their reach is limited, their knowledge is restricted, and this leaves massive gaps in our knowledge.

It’s not easy to calculate how many cell phone owners there are in the world and it’s even harder to calculate how many toothbrush owners there are. 

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The statistic that is the focal point of this article looked at several elements. For cell phones, it checked global subscription data—essentially how many contracts there were. For toothbrushes, it’s hard to say, as the original source didn’t actually mention it, but others have tried to fill in the gaps since.

So, what’s the issue here? Well, let’s start with cell phones. If you own several cell phones—ones for business, one for personal use, one for emergencies—then your data will appear three times. This is rare in countries like China and India, which account for a sizeable percentage of total cell phone ownership, but it’s common in richer countries and can skew the results significantly.

As for toothbrushes, the best data comes from researchers who have taken it upon themselves to calculate ownership. They based their stats on everything from the number of plastic toothbrushes that go to landfills, to how many sales the biggest brands have.

Again, this is far from perfect, because it doesn’t account for the countless eco-friendly brands and independent brands; it doesn’t account for the users who create their own brushes, rely on old electric toothbrushes or buy from untraceable sources.

It Ignores a Lot of Sales

The data determined that around 3.2 billion toothbrushes were sold during the year in question, compared to over 4.2 billion phones. However, this data, while expertly gathered, was a rough guess at best and there were many things it didn’t consider.

For instance, it didn’t account for the fact that electric toothbrush owners will simply buy new brush heads when they need a replacement, as opposed to a new toothbrush. 

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In the United States, it has been estimated that around a third of the population uses an electric toothbrush. In the UK, it’s closer to 40%. If we assume an average of 30% for the developed world, that’s approximately 350 million toothbrush owners that may have been omitted from the calculation. 

It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this study doesn’t quite mean what you think it does. The headlines make it seem like people are so tech-obsessed that they will happily put Facebook, Farmville, and Candy Crush over their oral health.

However, even if this statistic was true, it doesn’t mean that at all. Many cultures have alternative ways of cleaning their teeth that don’t involve toothbrushes. In some Muslim countries, a walnut tree bark is used and in large parts of Asia, they use a Miswak, which is a twig from the Arak tree. 

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Although this seems like a bizarre practice in the United States, these methods have been around much longer than plastic toothbrushes and they contain naturally occurring antibacterial compounds that make them very effective.

There are also cultures that simply use their fingers. This is not effective and would likely lead to a lot of cavities if this practice was adopted in the US, but in countries that don’t consume a lot of refined sugars or fried starches, it’s more than capable of doing the job.

Do Smartphones Outsell Toothbrushes?

To summarize, the sales of toothbrushes and smartphones are probably very similar, but the statistics are not as mind-blowing as you might have thought, toothbrushes are not the only way to clean your teeth, and the bulk of those smartphones are little more than glorified flip phones, and not brand-new iPhones!

On the topic of phones and dental hygiene, when you buy the Snow Teeth Whitening Kit you can plug it directly into your phone to power the device, watch instructional videos, and wait for the timer to count down. It’s the perfect way to end your day and ensure you wake up with cleaner, whiter, brighter teeth!