Do Different Age Groups Perceive the Importance of Oral Health Differently?

Posted on Feb 09, 2024 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Just how important is your oral health?

Although Americans often focus on their smiles esthetically, it’s a far more important part of you than is often given due credit on a day-to-day basis. Yes, straight, white teeth help to enhance the appearance of a smile (as well as facial appearance), it’s what is typically not seen that has far greater importance.

About 50% of the world’s population over the age of 30 suffer from periodontitis. In the U.S., a developed country with excellent healthcare, a whopping 47% of adults over the age of 30 have some level of periodontal disease.

Because gum disease can begin without obvious symptoms, or be present without having pain, it is too easily ignored. This allows the disease to progress further.

The early stage, known as gingivitis, usually begins with swollen and tender gums that bleed easily when brushing teeth. As it worsens, the healthy pink hue of gums darken to more of a red color and breath odor is persistently bad. The gums begin to loosen their strong grip around the base of teeth, allowing infectious bacteria to reach bone structures that support tooth roots. In advanced stages (periodontitis), pus pockets form near the base of some teeth and gums become spongy in texture.

The bacteria of periodontal disease doesn’t just damage oral health. Through weakened oral tissues, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and trigger inflammatory reactions. These reactions can worsen some serious health conditions and even activate others.

Research has found correlations between these bacteria and heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, some cancers (including pancreatic), preterm babies, erectile dysfunction, and Alzheimer’s disease.

In a 2020 study, individuals with gum disease who contracted COVID-19 were 9 times more likely to die. And, the study showed that COVID patients who already had advanced gum disease were 3 times more likely to end up in intensive care or on a ventilator. Evidence shows that poor oral health can increase viral infection severity, and even fatality rates.

But, does age play a part in the commitment to oral health?

A report commissioned by Delta Dental Plans Association revealed some concerning information regarding age groups and perceptions of oral health. With over 1,000 online participants, 87% listed their priority for maintaining proper oral care was to save money or avoid unexpected expenses. Two-thirds of the group listed their commitment to at-home dental hygiene as the desire to avoid tooth decay and gum disease. Yet, only 79% of adults stated they brushed their teeth twice a day with only 33% admitting to flossing daily.

In reviewing age groups, the report found that baby boomers (those born between 1946 – 1964) understand there is a strong link between their oral and overall health, but are less aware than other generations about the connection between poor dental health and chronic diseases (such as arthritis and diabetes). Those listed in the Generation Z group (born between 1997 – 2012) showed less commitment to their oral health as the “boomers,” but are more focused on eco-friendly and nontraditional oral care products. Only 76% of Generation Z agreed that oral health is closely connected to overall health.

An article in RDH Today recently shared that one-third of millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) admit to only brushing once per day, and the average millennial has gone over two days without brushing at all. Yet, 28% of young adults admit that ““The appearance of my mouth and teeth affects my ability to interview for a job.”

The study also shared that 27% of millennials are uncomfortable going to the dentist compared to 23% of respondents 55 years and older, and 56% of millennials have simply made an excuse not to go to the dentist compared to the 36% of those 55 years and older.

While fear remains a factor in a percentage of adults, this deterrent has existed for years among all ages. The American Dental Association conducted a survey on millennials, the fear issue was not the leading problem. Cost and inconvenient time and location were cited as the top excuses for avoiding regular dental care.

Excuses aside, here are some reminders about the benefits of maintaining good oral health:

• Technology – Today’s imaging technology (such as our Cone Beam technology and IntraOral scanners), allow us to treatment plan for the most conservative treatment possible. These amazing features provide amazing detail so treatment can be performed with precision for optimal outcomes.

• Comfort – In addition to the conservative treatment made possible by advanced imaging technology, we offer enhanced comfort options, including oral and I.V. sedation. Also referred to as “twilight sleep” or “sleep dentistry,” these sedatives are administered by a doctor of anesthesia who utilizes advanced safety monitoring equipment.

• Savings of Time & Money – The reason for 6-month dental check-ups and dental cleanings is to remove tartar buildup before damage can occur. Your hygienist and dentist can look for signs of gum disease so measures can be taken before the disease explodes into the need for more costly treatment to resolve the problem. Since gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss, the associated expenses of replacing teeth can also be avoided by maintaining good oral health.

• Bolstering Overall Health – Although the Covid pandemic made us more aware of the benefits of vaccines and healthy habits such as hand-washing, it is our immune system that makes people more or less vulnerable. By investing in having healthy gums, the immune system is supported.

Be aware of the signs and symptoms of gum disease. These include:
Sore, swollen gums
Gums that bleed easily when brushing
Persistent bad breath
Gums that recede (pull away or loosen from the base of teeth)
Gums that turn red in color
Pus pockets that form at the base of some teeth
Teeth that loosen or shift

If you have any of these, you are urged to seek periodontal care as soon as possible. This disease will only worsen without treatment.

Call 828-274-9440 to schedule a consultation in our state-of-the-art Asheville periodontal dental office. A referral is not required.



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