Survey Reveals Mixed Bag of Oral Health Habits

Dentistry Today

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Simplyhealth has released the results of its annual Consumer Oral Health Survey, which explores dental attendance and oral health habits as well as sugar consumption, pediatric oral health, what patients value in a dental practice, and how well they understand the links between oral health and general health. 

For example, the survey found that 82% of adults visit the dentist at least once every two years. The survey respondents offered a mix of reasons for not visiting more often, including fear of the dentist/pain (36%), inability to afford it (35%), only going when they need treatment (31%), and worry that the dentist will find things and they will need further treatment (16%).

“While it’s encouraging that the majority of the population visit their dentist at least once every two years, almost one in five aren’t seeing their dentist regularly and are missing out on this important health check,” said Dr. Catherine Rutland, dental spokesperson at Simplyhealth.

Also, 63% of children visit at least once every six months, with 23% visiting at least once a year, though 3% only visit when they are in pain, and 5% never visit. Plus, 87% of children have their first visit before their first birthday, 37% between the ages of 1 and 2, 24% between 3 and 4, 7% between 5 and 6, 3% at 7 and older, and 3% have never been to the dentist. 

“Regular dental checkups from an early age encourages children to understand the importance of good oral health habits for life, as well as helping potential dental problems to be spotted early,” said Rutland. “Almost a third of children have had between one and five fillings, and one in 10 children have missed a full day of school due to tooth decay.”

Patients do report overall satisfaction with their dental care, with 90% saying they are confident the office is sterile and hygienic; 90% believing the dentist will ensure the health of their teeth and gums; 89% trusting their dentist; 88% saying that treatments and procedures are explained clearly; and 87% citing good customer service. 

“Our data trends show that confidence in surgery hygiene, their dentist ensuring the health of their teeth and gums, and trust in their dentist continue to be the most important factors to patients for a sixth year,” said Rutland.

In terms of oral hygiene habits, 73% of adults brush twice a day or more, with 68% brushing for at least two minutes. Women are more likely to brush at least twice a day (77%) than men (69%). However, only 27% of adults floss at least once a day, and 33% of adults never floss.

“A proper brushing and flossing routine is an essential part of good oral health and helps to prevent tooth decay and gum disease,” said Rutland. “Speak to your dental team about finding the most appropriate products for your individual needs.” 

Though sugar has a significant impact on oral health, 24% of adults admit they are addicted to it, and 22% said they were happy with their intake and had no plans to change. Also, 53% said they support the recent tax on sugary soft drinks, and 29% said they are taking steps to watch or reduce their sugar intake.

“With one in five (21%) adults finding it difficult to understand the sugar content on food and drink packaging, it’s clear that more needs to be done to help consumers to make informed choices,” said Rutland. “Even with the best intentions, people may be unwittingly consuming far higher levels of sugar than they realize, and this will only fuel the sugar epidemic.” 

And as research continues to find links between oral and systemic health, 75% of adults agree that poor oral health can have a significant impact on overall general health. However, only 20% of adults think that poor oral health can be linked to heart disease, and only 8% of adults think that poor oral health can be linked to dementia.

“With studies increasingly finding links between oral health and general health, it’s important for everyone to start thinking about how their oral health might impact on their general wellbeing,” said Rutland. “This is especially important if you’ve already been diagnosed with, or if you’re at high risk of developing, a serious health condition.”

Simplyhealth gathered its results from an online survey of 5,083 adults age 18 and older in the United Kingdom conducted by Dynata between January 24 and February 5, 2019.

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