Aging Hipsters

June 26, 2009
Treating the Baby Boomer Generation

by Carol Jahn, RDH, MS

Estimated at 77 million, Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) represent the largest population demographic in the United States. According the AARP, by 2015, people aged 50 and over will represent 45% of the population. The US Census notes that for 2009, the largest age demographic is 48 year olds.

Baby Boomers are defying the concept of old age. They spend money to stay fit and look good. They use the Internet to find health information and shop. They are one of the largest growing users of Facebook. This article will address five tips for treating the Baby Boomer demographic.

1) Health History Update

One of the most important components of any dental hygiene visit is the health history review/update. Despite a commitment to health and wellness, many Baby Boomers are living with chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis. These afflictions and many others have the potential to impact oral health. Unfortunately, patients are not always as forthcoming as they should. Ways to help elicit the information that you need to know may include:

• Comparing the health conditions listed on the health history to the medications listed to see if things match up. In other words, if a patient lists a medication, do they have the condition they are taking it for also on the medical history?

• Getting specific by asking about use of over-the-counter drugs and supplements.

• Asking, "Is there anything else?" A follow up to this could be "even something you may not think is important could be because many conditions and medications, even over-the-counter ones and supplements may cause dry mouth and affect the care we provide."

2) Blood pressure screening

A blood pressure screening is an ideal way to emphasize the importance of the oral systemic link.

• Hypertension affects one in three people; of those, one in three are unaware of their condition.

• It is a major risk factor for stroke and heart attack. Patients with diabetes are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

• Blood pressure and cholesterol are key components along with blood sugar in obtaining good diabetic control.

3) Oral Cancer Screening.

Alcohol and tobacco use are well-established risk factors for oral cancer, and the typical patient affected with this disease was a male, generally over the age of 65. In the last few years, there have been more documented cases of oral cancer in men and women younger than 65 who present with no established risk factors.

• New evidence now indicates that the human papillomavirus (HPV) as an emerging risk factor for oral cancer independent of alcohol and tobacco use.(1)

• All patients regardless of age, gender, or history of alcohol and tobacco use should be screened for oral cancer.

4) Cosmetic Dentistry

Baby boomers have led the way in the anti-aging movement. Whether it's veneers or whitening, it is important to continue to offer these services regardless of age. Baby Boomers have the resources and willingness to pay for services that will enhance their youth and vitality

• Adults 45 and older tend to 'outspend' younger adults

• When Boomers like a product or service, they are do not hesitate to promote it to their friends and family

5) Customizing Self-Care

Most patients need some interdental cleaning to prevent disease reoccurrence. Dental floss is the most recommended means for interproximal care; yet only about 30% of patients actually floss, and of those that do, not all do it correctly. Conditions such as osteoarthritis can further limit the ability of patients to use dental floss as can age-related vision changes. Additionally, Baby Boomers have led the way in preferring 'convenience-type' items. Many products have been shown to be an effective alternative and easier and thus more convenient to use than dental floss.(2) These include

• Floss holders

• Toothpicks and woodpoints

• Interdental brushes

• Power flossers

• Pulsating dental water jet

All will remove plaque and reduce bleeding and gingivitis, including the pulsating dental water jet. A recent study conducted at the University of Southern California, School of Dentistry with renowned biofilm expert Dr. Bill Costerton, evaluated the removal of plaque biofilm with a Waterpik® dental water jet using a scanning electron microscope. This highly sensitive device revealed that 99.9% of the plaque biofilm was removed by the Waterpik dental water jet treatment.(3)


The Baby Boomer generation is one of the largest ever. With a commitment to health, wellness, and vitality, Boomers will seek dental services throughout their entire lifespan. The health history along with blood pressure and oral cancer screenings can help treat the overall person. Recognition that appearance is important as well as convenience in self-care will also be important.


1. D'Souza G et al. Case-control study of human papillomavirus and oropharyngeal cancer. N Engl J Med, 2007; 356:1944-56. Available online at

2.Asadoorian J. Canadian Dental Hygienists' Association Position Statement: Flossing. CJDH 2006; 40:1-10. Available online at: www.cdha

3. Gorur A et al. Biofilm removal with a dental water jet. Compend Contin Educ Dent 2009:30(Special Issue 1):1-6. Available online at:

Online Resources:

Water Pik, Inc.

• Self-study course on Boomers and Seniors – 3 credit hours

US Census Bureau: Population Reports: 65+

American Heart Association; Blood Pressure Statistics

Oral Cancer Foundation

Carol A. Jahn, RDH, MS, is the Manager of Professional Education and Communications for Water Pik, Inc. She has presented over 200 continuing education courses on topics such as periodontics, diabetes, and oral and general health consideration for treating children and adolescents and Seniors and Boomers. Ms. Jahn has published over 60 papers and contributed to six textbooks. She is a life-long member of the ADHA. She can be reached at [email protected].