A new survey has revealed two thirds of those over the age of 55 regret not looking after their teeth in earlier life.
Those living in the North East of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland regret their past oral hygiene the most while more men regret not caring for their teeth than women3.
Remarkably, from as recently as 1968 more than one in three (37 per cent) of adult UK residents over the age of 16 had none of their natural teeth. This equates to in excess of 10 million people by today’s population. Fortunately this percentage has now dropped to six per cent, but this tooth loss is entirely preventable.
To mark World Oral Health Day [Friday 20 March], Chief Executive of oral health charity the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, advises how we can care for our teeth from cradle to the grave.
Dr Carter says: “Despite oral health improving significantly in recent decades many people born in the 1960s and earlier lived in an era when oral health education was not widely available and their oral health suffered as a result.
There is a very strong message from older people that not looking after oral health when young can lead to a lifetime of regrets. Our teeth and smile are important to many aspects of our life and cannot be taken for granted. Simply brushing our teeth last thing at night and at one other time during the day with a fluoride toothpaste, cutting down how often we have sugary foods and drinks and visiting the dentist as often as they recommend, is all we need to do to develop and maintain a healthy mouth.”
At the other end of the adult age scale, the British Dental Health Foundation’s research has also found that a significant number of younger people aged 16-24 are more image conscious about how their teeth look – more than any other age group. Two thirds (67 per cent) of 16-24 year olds say they are now more worried about how the teeth look compared to five years ago4.
“It is interesting to note that younger people are the most image conscious age group when it comes to how teeth look and hopefully this will lead to more improvements in oral health in future generations,” adds Dr Carter.
“A good oral health routine needs to start from the arrival of the very first milk tooth and continue throughout life. Dental visits should be a regular part of every child’s life and we all realise that it is important to introduce the role of the dentist to them at a young age. What’s more, with one of our recent surveys showing that almost one in four of the population suffer from dental phobias, it is vital to create an understanding among children that dentists are not to be feared but are there to help.
“Without this basic standing, children are more likely to take bad habits into adulthood resulting in decay, tooth loss and gum disease, which has been linked to a whole manner of serious conditions such as diabetes, strokes, heart disease as well as dementia. It all means that making sure the child’s mouth stays healthy is about far more than achieving and maintaining a pearly white smile.
“Once you have good oral health, it is important to maintain it as you grow older. There is no reason for you to lose teeth, but this often happens. Bearing this in mind, people who have lost teeth and who wear dentures also need to maintain high standards of oral health, especially to protect any remaining natural teeth. Dentures should be cleaned twice a day like normal teeth and kept moist at all times.”