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Consumers score a ‘D’ for knowledge of oral health

‘Nice smile’ tops eyes, hair as most important attribute

In a national online survey of nearly 1,500 consumers across the U.S., the ADA inquired about consumers’ knowledge of oral health and hygiene.

No one aced the test.

Scores ranged from a high of 85 percent correct to a low of 29 percent. The average score overall was 60 percent correct. If the results are any guide, there’s much room for improvement when it comes to educating patients about their oral health.

Included among select findings, the survey concluded that:

  • Those consumers who are caregivers with children in the home scored slightly higher.
  • Women scored higher than men by 4 percentage points.
  • Higher formal education equated to a higher score. Those with a college degree scored 62 percent and those without a high school diploma scored 55 percent. The range of scores increased progressively with more education.
  • Higher incomes also scored higher, except among Hispanics where income made no difference.
  • When it came to the following topics, consumer knowledge was actually pretty good: what is gingivitis? (95 percent were correct); your mouth changes as you get older (93 percent correct); pregnant women should pay extra attention to their dental health (92 percent); and denture wearers still need to visit the dentist (92 percent).
  • On the other hand, consumer knowledge was not so good on when children should be able to brush their teeth (only 6 percent were correct); whether one should brush after every meal (10 percent correct); whether sugar causes cavities (19 percent); and at what age a child should have their first visit to a dentist (25 percent).
  • The survey also asked consumers for their opinion on a number of oral health topics, which yielded the following results: 
  • Eighty-three percent of households still participate in tooth fairy rewards.
  • Eighty-five percent of respondents indicated that a good smile is extremely or very important for finding a job.
  • One in five have shied away from a social event because of problems with their teeth.
  • Regarding physical attractiveness, a nice smile outweighed skin, eyes, hair, and build or figure as the most important attribute.

An abbreviated and interactive version of the survey will be available on MouthHealthy.org so consumers can “Test Your Dental IQ”—allowing them to compare their scores with the national average.