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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Survey says we’re failing to floss and visit our dentist – and not brushing enough

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Poorly funded and promoted dental schemes, long waiting lists for public dentistry, price rises in private health insurance premiums and the destructive forces of the pandemic have all joined to form a perfect storm for a dramatic decline in Australia’s oral health. 

Alarming new Australian Dental Association (ADA) data from the peak dental body’s annual Consumer Survey released for Dental Health Week next week (August 1-7), has unmasked some surprising findings around mouth maintenance over the last 12 months.

not brushing twice a day and flossing once a day is a fast track to developing tooth decay, gum disease and a range whole of body health issues that can arise from sub-par oral health.

ADA vice president, Dr Steven Liew

Data relating to adults found that: 

  • 77 per cent of us rarely or never floss, a fundamental part of a good oral health routine,
  • only 13 per cent have visited the dentist in the past 12 months,  
  • 26 per cent of us haven’t been to a dentist in over 5 years, and 40 per cent haven’t done so in the previous 2 to 5 years, 
  • 19 per cent only brush once (or less) per day, and of this group, 30 per cent said it was because it caused pain while 14 per cent thought it was bad for the teeth, and
  • 66 per cent of respondents were unaware that poor oral health can impact medical conditions.

ADA vice president Dr Steven Liew said the findings show that Australians have the capacity to improve the daily habits that contribute to good oral health.

“[But] not brushing twice a day and flossing once a day is a fast track to developing tooth decay, gum disease and a range whole of body health issues that can arise from sub-par oral health.

The pandemic has been tough for many people and for some this has led them to take their eye off the oral health ball — we’re seeing the result in dental clinics across the land.

Sydney dentist, Dr Mikaela Chinotti

“Previous studies suggest that untreated advanced gum disease can increase the chances of serious cardiac events, adverse pregnancy outcomes including prematurity, Type 2 diabetes and other significant health conditions,” he said.

Data relating to children found: 

  • 58 per cent parents didn’t know if they were eligible for free dental care for their kids through the Government’s Child Dental Benefits Schedule (which provides $1026 in dental care every 2 years),
  • 41 per cent parents said a child’s first dental visit should be at 2 years-old – with only 25 per cent aware that it should be at 1-year-old or sooner if their first tooth erupts prior to their first birthday. 
  • 4 in 10 parents report their children under 17 years drink 2 – 5 soft drinks a week, despite 83% knowing such drinks can lead to tooth decay. A sizeable number of parents appear to be unaware that fruit juice can lead to tooth decay.

Other surprising outcomes included:

  • 2 in 3 adults usually visit the dentist for a specific problem rather than for a check-up, a figure that has not improved since first being recorded in 2014.
  • 1 in 3 adults rate their oral health as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’. This increased with age to 1 in 2 adults for those over 56. The most common reason was ‘don’t visit the dentist enough’.

Teeth whitening statistics revealed: 

  • 22 per cent of us have whitened our teeth, an 8 per cent increase since 2017, 
  • more than twice as many women than men have teeth whitened, and it’s most popular in the 24-34 year-old age group,  
  • unfortunately only 1 in 3 adults whitening their teeth are doing so under the supervision of a dental professional – 19 per cent are using take-home kits and 14 per cent opting for in-clinic whitening, and
  • the other two thirds are using other means – 39 per cent are buying teeth whitening kits online, 16 per cent getting over-the-counter products like strips or gel from a pharmacy or supermarket, and 9 per cent are using whitening services provided by someone other than a dental professional. 

 “The level of knowledge about oral health and its knock-on effects is still not what it should be,” the ADA’s oral health promoter and Sydney dentist Dr Mikaela Chinotti said. 

“The pandemic has been tough for many people and for some this has led them to take their eye off the oral health ball — we’re seeing the result in dental clinics across the land.

“Following the ADA’s four key steps for good oral health will go a long way in helping Australians to keep their teeth for life: brush twice a day with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, clean between teeth daily, visit your dentist regularly and have a diet low in sugar. 

Chinotti said a healthy mouth is more than just clean and white teeth — keeping your teeth healthy allows you to eat, speak and smile comfortably. 

“To help Australians access up-to-date and evidence-based information on oral health, the ADA has created teeth.org.au, a one-stop shop for information and resources to help maintain their oral health and keep their smile for life.”  

 About the ADA’s 2022 Consumer Survey  

The ADA’s Consumer Survey was conducted in November and December 2021 with findings released in 2022. It had 25,000 respondents aged 18 and over.  

It was split between 66 per cent metropolitan, 27 per cent regional and 5 per cent rural responses. 

The gender split was 49 per cent male and 51 per cent female. 

The data was collected from focus groups, phone interviews and online surveys. 

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