The Most Surprising Facts About Dental Health That You Will Love
It has been estimated that at least 20 million Americans wear either full or partial dentures. That includes more than half of all people over the age of 65 and around 3% of those aged between 18 and 34.
If that statistic surprised you, we have many more shocks in store as we take a look at the many surprising facts about dental health.
Many Young Adults Don’t Have a Fully Developed Set of Teeth
Most of your adult teeth erupt and develop before you hit your teens but wisdom teeth are the exception. These troublesome teeth don’t develop fully until you’re between the ages of 17 and 21, and some don’t appear until age 25, so it’s possible to be 25 years old and not have a fully developed set of teeth!
The cells that your body needs to develop these teeth are actually present at birth and they start developing 7 or 8 years later. By age 12 or 13, they can often be seen through an X-ray but won’t fully form for another half-decade at least.
Speaking of surprising statistics about wisdom teeth…
10 Million Wisdom Teeth are Removed Every Year
Every year, 10 million wisdom teeth are removed in the United States and not all of these surgeries are necessary. Wisdom teeth are the appendix of the mouth—we all have them, but none of us need them.
There is rarely enough space for them, and they are prone to becoming impacted. They’re also hard to reach, which means they are equally hard to clean and are prone to decay and rot.
If you still have your wisdom teeth and have developed fully-grown teeth without issue, you are one of the lucky ones, but your luck might not last. 85% of people have their wisdom teeth removed during their lifetime.
Gum Disease is Common
Gum disease is the second most common illness in the United States behind the common cold, and the older you are, the more likely you are to have it.
It is often dismissed as a harmless issue, something that you don’t need to worry about and something that will go away on its own. But unfortunately for the millions of Americans that suffer from this affliction, that’s simply not the case.
If left untreated, gum disease can cause tooth loss and receding gums. It begins with a little blood when you floss but it can develop into something much more serious.
Age won’t protect you, either. As noted at the outset of this guide, 3% of adults below the age of 34 have lost all of their teeth and the majority of this was the result of severe gum disease.
If you experience bleeding gums, severely bad breath, or notice any other concerning symptoms, speak with your dentist. A professional clean and some expert pointers could be enough to reverse the condition and put you back on track.
You Brush for 38 Days During Your Lifetime
The average American spends approximately 38 days brushing their teeth throughout their lifetime, and if you brush twice-daily for 2 minutes at a time, that’s over two months’ worth of brushing!
It sounds like a lot of time and it’s probably just the excuse you needed if you’re trying to convince yourself that brushing your teeth is a waste of time, but not so fast! We’re talking about an entire lifetime of brushing, and when you compare it to the 26 years that you spend sleeping, the 4 years you spend eating, or the three months you spend on the toilet, it’s nothing!
It’s a small part of your life but it’s also an incredibly important one. Another way to look at it is to consider that a single decayed tooth can cost you between $2,000 and $6,000 over a lifetime. A good dental hygiene routine could save you tens of thousands of dollars and ensure you waste significantly less time in the dentist’s chair.
Billions are Spent on Toothpaste and Toothbrushes
Every year, Americans spend over $2 billion on dental care products. That seems like a lot of money, but it pales in comparison to the amount spent on hair care products, which is approximately 50 times more.
The uptake of electric toothbrushes has been pretty slow over the years and many families prefer cheaper and more disposable manual brushes, but there has been a notable increase in the amount of money spent on alternative toothpaste, including ones made from activated charcoal.
We Don’t Follow Expert Advice
Dentists recommend brushing twice a day for two minutes at a time and close to 70% of Americans are said to follow this advice. They also recommend flossing every day, and just 41% listen to them.
It may seem trivial but committing to daily flossing and twice-daily brushing drastically reduces your odds of developing gum disease and experiencing tooth loss. That’s not all, either, as it’s also recommend that you visit your dentist once every 6 months and change your toothbrush or brush head every 90 days, and a very small percentage follow this advice.
If you want to stay healthy and problem-free, start brushing, start flossing, change your brush heads, and keep your appointments!
Smokers are up to 700% More Likely to Develop Gum Disease
You probably know that smoking increases your risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and an array of other problems, but did you know that smokers are also 2 to 7 times more likely to get gum disease?
It’s not just about tar stains and discoloration, either. Smoking and chewing tobacco reduce blood flow and slow the rate of recovery. Wounds take longer to heal, bacteria runs wild, and unless you have an incredibly tight dental hygiene routine, gum disease will rear its ugly head.
This is why smokers are stereotyped as having strained and missing teeth, along with receding gums. You can buy toothpaste specifically designed for smokers, but it’s a veritable drop in the bucket and focuses only on the stains and not on the real issue.
People Associate Blue with Clean Teeth
You’re in the toiletries aisle, the shelves have been stripped, and only two types of toothpaste remain: one red and one blue. Which one do you choose?
The vast majority of consumers opt for the blue. It’s not entirely clear why, but it seems that blue is more commonly associated with cleanliness and freshness.
If both of those tubes were transparent and completely devoid of branding, you’d likely associate the blue tube with toothpaste or another type of cleaning product while dismissing the red as a hot sauce.
Even when you know that both products contain similar ingredients, have the same flavor, and serve the same purpose, the blue one seems like it’s more effective and cleaner.
It’s one of the strange quirks of the human brain, and it’s why most toothpaste is made from a mixture of white and blue.
The same phenomenon doesn’t occur in children. They seem to prefer brighter and stronger colors and are not averse to a toothpaste that is entirely red. It’s probably because they don’t care about “clean” and “fresh” and just want something that looks and tastes like candy.
Eco-Friendly Options Make a Massive Difference
How many times have you “forgotten” to recycle and insisted that it would only make a small difference anyway? After all, how much of an impact can you make by switching to a plastic-free toothbrush when millions are heading to landfill every few years?
In truth, you’re making a bigger difference than you think and as the saying goes, every little helps. The average person uses 300 toothbrushes and over 500 tubes of toothpaste during their lifetime.
Once you include all the plastic packages and seals that these products use, that’s a hefty amount of waste going to landfill. By switching your family to more eco-friendly options, you could be making a massive impact on an incredibly wasteful industry.
In the United States alone, over 1 billion toothbrushes are sent to landfill every year. These brushes account for a massive 50 million pounds of waste. What’s more, the brushes are often made from polypropylene (sourced from non-renewable fossil fuels) and nylon, the creation and destruction of which creates a massive problem for the world’s oceans and pumps millions of pounds of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.
Fortunately, there are many eco-friendly options on the market today. Eco-friendly toothbrushes are made from non-toxic silicone or sustainable bamboo, and toothpaste can be bought in tablet form and stored in glass jars, with refills available in paper pots. It’s a cheaper, cleaner, and more earth-friendly way of maintaining optimal oral health.
Humans Have Always Cared about their Teeth
Refined sugar is a relatively recent invention, but we’ve been obsessed with bright and white smiles for millennia. Many early toothbrushes and toothpicks have since decomposed and so we can’t say for sure just how obsessed our ancestors were with their dental health, but there are a few hints.
For instance, after studying the preserved teeth of prehistoric humans, archeologists have discovered traces of toothpick use, suggesting they regularly picked their teeth clean and maybe even used these picks to scrub away plaque.
Many thousands of years later, “chewsticks” were used by the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamian civilizations around the same time that the Great Pyramids were being built. These early toothbrushes were basically frayed sticks that would be chewed or used as brushes to remove plaque.
Many centuries later, the Chinese manufactured toothbrushes using animal bone for handles and coarse boar hair for bristles. These became commonplace in the 16th and 17th centuries when traders exported them across Europe.
Unless you had a lot of money and access to the latest wares, you would have been resigned to using a damp cloth dabbed with salt or soot. It wasn’t the most pleasant or the most hygienic way to clean your teeth, but it was better than nothing!
It wasn’t until the 18th century that the first modern toothbrush was invented, and we had to wait until the middle of the 20th century before they were being used every day.
The Electric Toothbrush is Older Than you Think
If you had to estimate the age of electric toothbrushes, you might guess at the 70s, 80s, or even the 90s. To an extent, you would be right, as the first sonic toothbrush was patented in the early 90s, but this was over 60 years after the first electric toothbrush!
Known as the Motodent, this dental marvel was patented in 1937, during which time it was still common to see brushes made from animal hair. It wasn’t seen as a modern convenience and was actually invented to help individuals with limited mobility.
The most surprising thing about this early electric toothbrush is that it bears a striking similarity to modern variants, although it was a little bigger and not quite as powerful.
Dentures Have Been Around for a Long Time
Legend has it that George Washington had a set of wooden dentures. Like all interesting legends, and like the first president’s teeth, it’s completely false. He did wear dentures, but they were made from animal bone and ivory, as well as human teeth.
In fact, as noted in our Facts about Dentures guide, he even paid for teeth extracted from enslaved Americans and also kept two of his own for later use.
Long before Washington crafted his morbid sets of dentures, the Japanese mastered the art of hand-crafting false teeth from wood and a malleable substance known as pagodite. But even these weren’t the first sets of false teeth, as records suggest that the Etruscans, an Italian civilization that predates the Romans, invented their own versions over 2,500 years ago.
It makes sense. Teeth are pretty important for both practical and aesthetic reasons and if you lose yours, you’ll be desperate to replace them. Humans are crafty creatures, so it’s fair to assume that we were creating some type of false teeth long before the brilliant Etruscans etched their name into the history books.
Women vs Men
There are some notable differences between men and women where dental health is concerned.
According to a survey conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), gum disease was present in 34% of men between the age of 30 to 54 and just 23% of women in the same age group. The rates jumped to 56% and 44% respectively for respondents aged between 55 and 90.
Men also have more missing teeth and are more likely to be fitted for dentures. If those stats seem strange, consider this, the aforementioned research also found that women were more likely to brush their teeth twice daily.
Dental Tourism is Big Business
In 2018, Americans spent over $2.6 billion on medical tourism, a significant percentage of which went toward dental treatments. This equated to a near 300% increase from 2008 and if not for the pandemic and the resulting lockdowns of 2020, it would have likely continued its ascent.
The idea of traveling halfway around the world just to get dental treatment might sound a little absurd, but if you require a lot of work, it could save you huge sums of money.
Patients save close to 50% on average for treatments purchased in Mexico and this jumps to nearly 75% for Thailand. If you’re dropping $10,000 on crowns, veneers, dentures, or multiple fillings, that $500 flight and hotel package begins to look like a bargain.
The United States has some of the most expensive dental treatments in the world, and it’s not the only place you’ll find great dentists. As long as you do your research and make sure you’re dealing with a reputable clinic, it makes perfect sense to go international.
In fact, the US isn’t the only country with a sizeable dental tourism industry. Australians also look elsewhere when they need expensive and extensive treatments, often heading to Thailand and Malaysia, where prices are a fraction of what they are Down Under.
Toothpaste is a Complex Mix of Ingredients
Many homemade toothpaste recipes call for the use of baking soda and essential oils, combining a mild abrasive with fragrant oil. It’s supposed to replicate commercial toothpaste, but a lot of thought (and chemicals) goes into creating these products.
A basic toothpaste will generally contain all of the following:
- An Abrasive—designed to scrub plaque from the surface of the teeth. There is even a scale that ranks toothpaste by its abrasiveness, known as Relative Dentin Abrasion (RDA). Baking soda is near the bottom of this scale, just above “toothbrush with plain water”, while strong whitening toothpaste is at the top.
- A Detergent—cleans stains and washes them away. The same ingredients are also found in shampoo and laundry detergent, albeit in much smaller concentrations.
- Fluoride—a mineral that helps to strengthen the teeth and has been used in toothpaste formulations for over 100 years.
These are used in combination with a host of inactive ingredients designed to provide fragrance, foaming, and consistency while increasing the lifespan. It’s fair to say that we’ve come a long way since the days of Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, when crushed shells, bark, and even animal bones were used.