The Academy of General Dentistry's toll-free consumer service, 1-877-2X-A-YEAR (1-877-292-9327) celebrates its second national anniversary on January 10, 2002, and has helped connect more than 7,300 consumers with more than 16,000 general dentists between January 10, 2000 to November 30, 2001. Following are some highlights from the year-to-date results:
* Public health surveys show that 31 percent to 57 percent of the population does not visit a dentist even once a year. For the second year in a row, it was found that 59 percent of consumers calling the service did not have a regular dentist. Researchers also have found that the most common factors associated with infrequent dental checkups are being male, having lower income levels, not having a usual place for dental care and being anxious about visiting the dentist.
* The state of a woman's oral health reflects her overall mental and physical state. Eighty percent of callers looking for a regular dentist were women. Their dentist can alert them about things that alter the female body, such as diet pills, oral contraceptives or going through various life stages, and how they affect a woman's oral health.
* Men are less likely to make dental health decisions. Good oral health recently has been linked with longevity. Yet, one of the most common factors associated with infrequent dental checkups is just being male. Only 20 percent of men called the service to find a dentist.
* People are living longer and maintaining their teeth for a longer period of time. The fastest growing segment of the population are those over 100. More than 37 percent of callers looking for a dentist were 60 years and older. Technology in oral health, such as electric toothbrushes and dental implants, can preserve the teeth for those who suffer from arthritis, tooth loss due to decay or periodontal disease.
* Other segments of the population are also interested in finding a dentist: Fifteen percent of callers were under age 30; 33 percent were between 30 and 49 years old; and 15 percent were 50 to 59 years of age.
* Each year, more than 43 million people relocate. This year, 16 percent of those new to their area called the consumer toll-free service to find a new dentist.
* Given the attitude that "If it's not broke, don't fix it," nagging dental problems caused 11 percent of consumers to call the number and locate a dentist because they had a dental health ailment.
* Eighty-nine percent of callers were seeking a dentist for "themselves" and 11 percent were calling the service on behalf of someone else.