People Value Other People’s Teeth More Than Their Own

Dentistry Today


Research continues to document the connections between oral and systemic health as our culture’s obsession with aesthetics continues to grow. However, Americans have inconsistent attitudes when it comes to dental care, according to a’s inaugural State of the American Mouth Report.

“Despite the clear link between oral health and overall health—including conditions related to our heart, brain, gut, kidneys, and others—people still don’t make dental care a priority,” said Brian McCarthy, executive vice president of

“It’s shocking that more than 50% of adults have not seen a dentist in the past year and nearly 30% have untreated tooth decay, potentially harming their vital organs in the long term. While social platforms may have made your smile more important than ever, people aren’t looking beyond the photo to truly care for their oral—and overall—health,” McCarthy said. 

Overall, reports, Americans are a lot of talk with no action when it comes to their dental health. They care about how other people’s teeth look but fail to optimize their own care. For example, 87% agree that bad teeth can have a negative impact on a person’s personal and professional life. Also: 

  • 46% of Americans would end a relationship if their partner had bad breath
  • 44% would not spend time with a friend who had bad breath.
  • 70% of women and 65% of men would reject someone with bad teeth on a dating app

Furthermore, 43% of those age 18 to 34 say people with nice teeth are better in bed, while 28% of those age 35 and older would agree. Men (37%) are more likely to feel this way than women (29%).

Yet Americans fail to take care of their own teeth. More Americans have had car maintenance performed (62%) than gotten their teeth cleaned (51%) sometime in the past six months. Also, 45% would rather spend money for cable or streaming services than on a dental procedure, jumping to 56% among those age 18 to 34. 

When people aren’t proud of their teeth, they rely on technology to look good, with 30% of those age 18 to 34 digitally whitening their teeth before posting a picture on social media. This age group was less likely to have gotten a teeth cleaning in the past six months (43%) than those age 35 to 44 (56%), 44 to 54 (44%), 55 to 64 (52%), and 65 and older (63%). 

“People tend to direct their focus and efforts around services and relationships that support the things that matter most. However, in the case of oral health, it’s clear that there’s a dangerous disconnect,” said McCarthy. 

“We may be aware that our teeth are important to our health and impact the way we view and are viewed by others, but, according to the research, people are quite literally not putting their money where their mouth is,” McCarthy said. 

There is hope for families, though, as 87% of those who are parents with kids under the age of 18 said that their children had visited the dentist in the past year, with 72% having gone in the past six months. Also, 97% of parents age 45 to 54 said their children had gone to the dentist in the past year. 

Millennial parents are more likely to be uncertain of when their children last went to the dentist (13%) than those age 35 to 54 (4%), though, with millennial mothers being more than twice as likely to be unsure as their millennial dad counterparts (17% versus 8%, respectively).

The Harris Poll conducted the survey online within the United States between January 2 and January 4 among 2,015 adults age 18 and older, including 727 parents of kids under the age of 18. It was not based on a probability sample, so no sampling error could be calculated.

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