Younger Age Groups Are Falling Behind On Maintaining A Healthy Smile

Posted on Feb 10, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

A recent survey, commissioned by the American Association of Endodontists, showed that working or studying from home is having a negative impact on the oral health of adults. It findings reveal that more than half of Americans say the pandemic has caused them to delay their regular dental exams and cleanings, which can lead to serious oral health problems.

Being stuck in one’s home has become an adjustment people across the globe have had to make. In spite of having easy access to a toothbrush and toothpaste, this has resulted in factors that are out-doing daily dental hygiene routines. Significant findings include:

31% admit to snacking more on sweets

24% report they are flossing less frequently with another 23% not flossing

1 in 4 said they delay brushing until later in the morning, while 21% aren’t brushing in the morning at all

28% didn’t schedule or forgot to schedule a dental visit

This has become a more prevalent problem for adults in the millennial age group. These adults were born between 1981 – 1996 and are presently between the ages 24 of 39. According to several surveys, millennials are not only doing a poor job at oral hygiene upkeep, the convenience of working from home is working against them as well.

In a 2017 study, 30% of millennials polled admitted to only brushing their teeth once a day, and some millennials have gone over 2 days without a brushing at all. Because this survey was conducted prior to the pandemic constraints, keeping more adults inside 24/7, the figures are likely even worse.

At the time of the survey, 43% stated that working from home or attending virtual classes disrupted their usual oral hygiene regimens during the pandemic lockdown. Couple this with not having a set schedule to follow (thus, no daily brush-&-floss routine). Work-from-home adults (or students) also have 24/7 access to snacking.

All these factors equal future oral health problems for a large percentage of millennials. These include cavities, gum disease, and subsequent tooth loss. Is the nonchalance of oral hygiene because tooth loss is not a true worry, as with baby boomers?

Many baby boomers (now between ages 57-75) grew up with parents or grandparents who kept a glass by the bathroom sink where their dentures would “soak” during the night. This image may have helped to keep the over 55 age group more determined to maintain good oral health and keep their natural teeth.

Regular dental care is important for all ages, but especially for the aging adult. A thorough brushing and flossing routine at home is simply a greater need as older adult experience more challenges when it comes to oral health.

Older adults must deal with oral dryness, which creates an environment for more rapid bacteria growth. The cracks and fractures that natural teeth endured over the years can also give way. This leads to the need for crowns and even dental implants to replace lost teeth.

And, wallets are thinner in retirement. As people retire, there is less insurance coverages for dental expenses in addition to less income. To continue with regular, preventive dental care, an older adult must budget carefully to include these appointments.

Yet, baby boomers are also more determined to hold onto a more youthful sense. Losing natural teeth, to this age group in particular, is associated with an “old age” mindset that has been widely resisted by boomers.

Statistics from 2018  showed that nearly 50,000 more cosmetic procedures were performed on those 55 and older than in the previous year, with noticeable increases in surgical procedures like liposuction, hair transplantation and breast augmentation along with options like Botox and fillers. This age group also accounted for nearly half of all eyelid surgeries and two-thirds of facelifts.

However, segmenting oral health habits into age groups is not the chief concern among those of us who are dental caregivers. As a periodontal specialist, I see all ages and know every adult should be highly committed to good oral health. Now, more than ever, having a healthy mouth can be a booster to the body’s overall immune system.

Gum disease occurs from an overload of infectious bacteria that the immune system can no longer manage. It extends below the surface and can no longer be brushed or flossed away.

These destructive bacteria can enter the bloodstream through tears in diseased gum tissues. Research has linked this bacteria to serious health conditions including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, preterm babies, arthritis, diabetes, impotency and even Alzheimer’s disease.

However, twice-daily brushing and daily flossing, on their own, will not shield you from developing gum disease. If you’ve been avoiding regular dental check-ups, the problems in the future can require costly repairs and even tooth replacement – problems that may have  been easily prevented.

If you have delayed dental care or have been less-than-diligent in maintaining good oral health, be aware of the signs of periodontal disease. These include seeing blood in the sink when brushing teeth, sore or swollen gums, gums that darken to a red color, persistent bad breath and sensitivity to hot or cold.

In our Asheville periodontal dental office, patients can begin with a consult in our private consultation room to discuss oral health options. A referral is not required.

Call 828-274-9440 to schedule.

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