SAN DIEGO, California--Nobel Biocare announced the results of the largest known consumer survey in dentistry Feb. 25, 2009, at the 24th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Osseointegration.
The survey, which evaluated the responses of nearly 55,000 consumers, provides new insight into the prevalence of missing teeth in America and the general lack of understanding about the health consequences of missing teeth.
The survey revealed the emphasis consumers place on their smile when considering their overall appearance.
The survey found that smile and appearance of teeth scored the highest (first and second, respectively) in terms of importance to personal appearance-- exceeding hair, clothes, eyes, facial features and physique.
In fact, nearly 90 percent of respondents ranked their smile as the most important attribute and almost 87 percent ranked the appearance of teeth as the second most important feature.
"As dentists, we are very aware of the underlying health issues that can be associated with missing teeth," said Dr. Neil Park, vice president of professional relations, Nobel Biocare. "In this survey, we wanted to better understand how missing teeth affected patients on an emotional level and determine their awareness of the associated consequences."
"The results from this survey have provided us with a deeper understanding of the importance of a smile to people, and underscore the need for better consumer education highlighting the consequences of tooth loss and the available treatment options that can increase satisfaction," Park added.
The survey revealed that nearly 50 percent of adults are missing at least one tooth. While most adults were aware of the visible consequences of missing teeth, including difficulty chewing food and impact to the appearance of a smile, there was limited awareness of the more serious health consequences.
This can include bone loss that may lead to changes in the shape of the face and repositioning of existing teeth.
According to Dr. Chris Marchack, DDS, a specialty dentist in California, the majority of patients are unaware of the health consequences that can arise from missing teeth.
"We see patients every day that are hesitant to replace a missing tooth because they see it only as an aesthetic issue and are concerned about perceived vanity," Dr. Marchack said. "It is vitally important for those in the dental profession to help patients not only understand the aesthetic benefits of an improved smile, but to also understand the health benefits of tooth replacement."
While there was a very strong correlation between prevalence of missing teeth among lower income households and among those with less educational achievement, the presence of missing teeth was still shown to have a remarkably high prevalence even among adult Americans with higher incomes.
In this survey, 33 percent of American adults in households with greater than $75,000 annual income also had missing teeth.
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