One in three respondents, that is 35%,Â placed spitting at the top of the list while 73% positioned it in the worst three. Using somebody elseâ€™s toothbrush and not telling them was branded as the most disgusting habit by a quarter of people, coming second in the poll, with nose picking in third.
Flatulence (12%), bad language (7%), belching (2%), biting nails (2%) and thumb sucking (0.3%) made up the rest of the list.
The survey, which questioned more than 1,000 members of the public, was conducted by the British Dental Health Foundation ahead of National Smile Month, a campaign to improve the UKâ€™s oral health in 2012.
In addition to using somebody elseâ€™s toothbrush and not telling them being the second biggest pet peeve with respondents, just under half found it nasty enough to rank it amongst their top three.
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter said he was surprised the attitudes against borrowing toothbrushes were not higher, especially as it was one of few on the list which could cause illness and disease.
“Borrowing somebody elseâ€™s toothbrush leaves people susceptible to all sorts of oral and general health problems. There are many hundreds of different bacteria and viruses in the mouth and people sharing a toothbrush could be passing these on to others. Whilst this might be something relatively harmless, such as a common cold or cold sore, if either person is infected with hepatitis B or HIV these could also be passed on via the toothbrush with life threatening consequences.
“People need to take good care of their toothbrush, changing it once every three months, and not letting anyone else borrow it.”
Dr Carter added: â€œWhat people may not realise when looking through this list is how many of these bad habits could go on to affect their oral health.
â€œNail biting could result in chipped teeth, gum trauma and a reduction in the enamel. An acid reflux from belching could cause dental erosion while thumb sucking can affect the position of the teeth, misaligning the jaw bone over time, resulting in unpleasant and costly corrective treatment.
â€œKicking bad habits can often not be easy but in this case they may be crucially important to achieving better oral and overall health.â€
National Smile Month, which runs from 20 May to 20 June, is being supported by a record number of sponsors including Listerine, Wrigley and Oral-B, and encourages everyone to follow three basic rules for great oral health throughout life:
â€¢ Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste;
â€¢ Cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks;
â€¢ Visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.
National Smile Month is also promoting a water saving message in 2012. By visiting www.smilemonth.org everyone can find out more about the campaign, including details on this yearâ€™s official symbol â€“ the â€˜Smileyâ€™.