In general, our oral health challenges increase as we get older. It makes sense that many people are focused on the concerns about taking care of America’s aging population. But it turns out that some younger Americans may actually be at greater risk for poor oral health. Young adults, those often described as being “Millennials,” may actually be suffering worse effects from their poor oral health than aging Americans.
Reduced Quality of Life
Ultimately, oral health is about living a long, happy, and quality life. Unfortunately, young adults are suffering a serious impact on their life as a result of poor oral health. The ADA study showed that 38% of Millennials say that their life is less satisfying because of the condition of their mouth and teeth. That’s more than twice the number of Americans 65 and over (17%) who reported that oral health impacted their quality of life.
And when you drill down into the results of the study, you can see how their life is being impacted. Because of the quality of their care, Millennials say they experience:
- Embarrassment related to their mouth and teeth (35%)
- Problems chewing (35%)
- Situations where they avoid smiling (33%)
- Anxiety (30%)
You add all that up, that’s a serious impact on their life, which may mean an almost decrease in their quality of life.
A Financial Catch-22
The ADA study also revealed that one of the big reasons why Millennials are suffering is that they are also in poor financial health. Unfortunately, the state of their oral health may be making it harder for them to improve their situation. Young adults are the most likely to report that the appearance of their mouth and teeth hinders their job search (28%).
We know that employers factor in a person’s smile when making hiring decisions. And, to some extent, this survey might justify that decision. Millennials are more likely to report that they missed work days as a result of their oral health–with 15% saying that this happened “very often” or “occasionally.”
Unfortunately, Millennials are already in a financial bind when it comes to their oral health. Only 30% say that they’ve seen a dentist in the last year, and that 61% say that cost is the primary thing keeping them from seeing a dentist.
It’s a new variation on the old joke about experience: they can’t get their smile fixed because they don’t have a job, and they can’t get a job because they need their smile fixed.
Of course, some of this may partly be our shifting attitudes toward smiles. In the past, people tended to see themselves in pictures only for special occasions, but Millennials are used to seeing themselves in pictures pretty much every day. And with seflie culture, they are used to examining their smiles carefully to try to get the best smile for their picture. Awareness of problems with their smile might be magnified by following celebrity Twitter, Instagram, and other social media feeds.
Fortunately, cosmetic dentistry has become more available, making it easy for some Millennials to correct their smiles. Unfortunately, this may also serve to make it harder for those who can’t currently afford to get their smile fixed.
A Growing Demand for Cosmetic Dentistry
With poor dental health and an increased awareness of the problems with their smiles, it’s likely that Millennials are going to have a much higher demand for reconstructive and cosmetic dentistry than previous generations.
But although Millennials may seem somewhat lost, they’re probably on the whole no worse than previous generations. When they do manage to find their economic footing in our shifting economy, they’ll finally be able to get the beautiful smiles they feel they’ve been lacking.