(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.
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 the study, which was entitled “Austin Powers Bites Back.”
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.”