The “Millenial” generation has entered the workforce, starting their adults lives with their first jobs and first homes, even starting families. But there’s one area where their lives are lacking due to an increasing amount of Millenials becoming involved in freelance work, and that is in dental care.
A study by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows that only 50% of adults age 20-34 have been to the dentist within the past year, as opposed to more than 62% of those age 35-62.
Unfortunately, the same age group is also at the greatest risk of cavities and tooth decay. Among adults 20-64, millenials have the highest percentage of untreated decay in permanent teeth. This is in large part because they are not going to the dentist. They think there’s no problem if they’re feeling no pain, and if they are, they just self-diagnose any problems through the Internet.
Unfortunately, a lack of pain doesn’t mean there aren’t any problems brewing. When patients wait to seek treatment until they feel pain, they are often allowing a problem to grow more serious, until it may require a more invasive and expensive treatment.
So why aren’t millenials going to the dentist? There are a few different reasons keeping them out of the dentist chair:
Fear – It’s estimated that as many as 75% of people experience some degree of fear when it comes to visiting the dentist office. Younger people, like the millenials, tend to report being more dentally fearful than older individuals.
Oftentimes, this fear turns into a cycle of avoidance, where patients avoid going to the dentist until they experience a dental emergency requiring invasive treatment, which only reinforces their fear of dentistry.
Cost – Millenials have helped usher in an era dominated by freelance and independent work. When the disappointing job market left recent college grads without the standard 9-to-5 with benefits and a pension plan, many young people went their own way, and discovered that they were able to make money and make their own schedule.
However, while freelance work does have benefits of its own, it does not come with an actual benefits package. And in such an unpredictable position, money can be tight. Young people without dental insurance don’t want to spend the money for regular dental visits, when that money needs to go towards rent or bills.
Priorities – For many millenials, this is the first time they’re out of the house, and out from under mom and dad’s watchful eye. Without the parental push for regular dental check-ups, it is not very high on the priority list.
Regardless of the reason for their dentist avoidance, millenials are putting their dental health at risk by not getting regular check-ups. They’re doing themselves a disservice, and will run into bigger issues down the road, when they may wish they had taken better care of their teeth when they were young.