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Published On: Tue, Apr 12th, 2016

Teeth for a Lifetime: Young Adults, Millennials and the Quest for Quality Dental Care

Usually, when you think of tooth decay and cavities, you think of older people or small children who haven’t learned how to brush properly. The reality is that dentists are seeing a massive spike in tooth decay among young people – young adults in the age range of 20 to 34.

These people don’t go to the dentist on a regular basis, for a variety of reasons.

For these Millennials, the dentist isn’t a high priority. Either they are in college, they’re struggling to afford dental insurance, or they simply can’t afford to pay for treatment out of pocket.

A study by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows that only 50 percent of 20-34 year olds have been to the dentist within the past year. This is compared to more than 62 percent of adults aged 35 to 64.

That’s not all. According to the survey, of adults between the ages of 20 and 64, it’s Millennials who have the highest percentage of untreated tooth decay in permanent teeth.

Millennials are also more likely to believe that, because there is no pain there is no problem with their teeth. But, bacterial problems can hide for many years before becoming readily apparent By then, it’s too late. More expensive surgery or treatments may be required.

By the time there is pain, there is usually a bigger issue than plaque buildup.

photo dozenist

photo dozenist

A Major Risk Factor

One reason Millennials are at a higher risk than the general population outside this age range is because they are more likely to drink soft drinks and energy drinks throughout the day. And, even with regular flossing and brushing, it may not be enough to protect against the constant assault in the mouth from these beverages.

Self-Diagnosis Is A Problem

The Internet has given us many great things. Unfortunately, information overload is a side-effect. When you can hop onto WebMD, or any other medical site, you can easily start to think that you don’t need a professional. Self-help sites don’t replace the need to see a professional. Often they are a good first place to investigate, but they won’t replace your need for regular cleanings.

But Millennials are more likely to self-diagnose any dental issues themselves. In fact, more than 1 in 4 adults say that their teeth and mouth condition is “excellent” or “very good.”

Almost 40 percent self-classify as “good.” If they’re wrong about their diagnosis, it could costs them dearly later on.

Fortunately, more and more employers are offering dental insurance as part of their comprehensive health insurance overhaul. You can see more at Guardian Life about the types of dental plans typical for most businesses.
This at least provides insurance coverage for employees at a reasonable cost.

What About Those Who Can’t Afford Insurance?

Despite the promise of Obamacare, there are still many young adults who can’t afford dental care, because dental insurance isn’t covered under the “essential coverage” provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

If Millennials can’t afford insurance, their only option is to pay for coverage out of pocket, or pay for dental costs out of pocket.

If an individual only needs routine cleaning, this is fine. However, if expensive procedures are required to fix a problem, then Millennials simply may not have the cash to pay for these procedures.

What then?

What To Do

Millennials who are looking for a way to get in to see the dentist should assess their finances. Make sure you really can’t afford the dentist before writing them off.

Taking care of your teeth, first and foremost, is probably the most important thing you can do. Floss twice a day and brush at least as often, after every meal. Is it a pain? It is if you’re not already in the habit of doing these things.

But, it’s the best way to keep your mouth clean between dental visits.

Another thing you can do is cut back on the sodas and sweet foods. Acidic foods damage tooth enamel.

Another thing you can do is try not chewing on things. If you tend to chew on pen caps or pencils, or use your teeth as tools, stop. They can’t take it.

If you’re looking for dental options, try hitting up a dental hygiene school or dental college. You could also try approaching a new dentist fresh out of college. Either of those options might get you into an office that is accepting new patients and accepting them at very affordable rates. Don’t be put off by a lack of experience because these folks just spent years in residency practicing or, if they’re still in school, are operating under the supervision of experienced dentists.

Guest Author :

Sofia Hutchinson is a student at a dental school in New York. Hoping to specialize in pediatric dentistry she writes for a small selection of health related blogs between studies.

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