Oral Health Spotlight

Shining a Spotlight on the Oral Health in Illinois

Delta Dental of Illinois covers the smiles of 2 million individuals nationwide, and we know first-hand the importance of oral health and its connection to well-being for both adults and children. For this reason, we recently commissioned the sixth annual Delta Dental of Illinois Children’s Oral Health Survey and Adult’s Oral Health and Well-Being Survey. Working with Kelton, a leading insights firm, we surveyed 150 parents of children ages 12 and under1 and 305 adults2 in Illinois.

We asked Illinoisans to share their opinions and oral health habits regarding their children or themselves. We explored serious and lighthearted topics and summarized the results in two easy-to-read reports to help educate and improve oral health in the state.

Our Children’s Oral Health Survey returned the following key findings:

  • 39 percent of Illinois children had at least one cavity in the past 12 months.
  • Only 27 percent of Illinois parents would rate their children’s oral health as excellent.
  • More than 4 of 10 (43 percent) parents admit their children’s teeth are brushed only once a day or less often. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of parents report their children’s teeth are flossed less often than once a day.
  • Regular dental visits are vital to good oral health and a habit that should start no later than a child’s first birthday. Yet, most Illinois children don’t see their family dentist until they are 2 ½ years old or older.
  • Nearly 2 in 5 (38 percent) Illinois parents say their children between the ages of 6 and 12 had to miss school due to an oral health problem in the past 12 months.
  • Although Illinois children could use some improvement on their oral health habits, 96 percent of children visited the dentist at least once in the past year.

View the full report.

Our Adult’s Oral Health and Well-Being Survey returned the following key findings:

  • While most Illinoisans report good oral health, 1 of 3 (33 percent) report unresolved oral health issues.
  • Illinoisans who visit the dentist less than once a year are 58 percent more likely to report an unresolved oral health issues.
  • About 1 in 5 (19 percent) of Illinoisans have been told they have periodontal (gum) disease, which is characterized by sensitive teeth, frequent bad breath and gums that are tender, red and swollen.
  • Nearly 2 of 3 Illinoisans (65 percent) visit the dentist at least once a year. Illinoisans with dental coverage are 58 percent more likely to visit the dentist at least once a year compared to those who lack coverage.
  • Most Illinoisans brush their teeth twice a day or more. Still, one-third of Illinoisans (33 percent) do not, which means they aren’t brushing enough.
  • Nearly 3 of 4 Illinoisans say they like their smile.
  • Illinois adults who visit the dentist at least once a year are nearly four times as likely to report their oral health as excellent. Illinois adults who report their oral health as excellent are more than twice as likely to report excellent or very good physical well-being.

View the full report.

Both of our surveys show that all Illinoisans can use some improvement on their oral health habits.  Poor oral health negatively affects one’s ability to speak, eat, learn and concentrate. Untreated tooth decay and other oral health problems can cause discomfort and lead to missed school or work.

When a child or adult has good oral health, they are more likely to report better overall health.  To help keep your and your family’s smiles healthy, follow these simple tips.

  • Brush twice with a fluoride tooth paste and floss once daily. You or your child should brush teeth for two minutes each time.
  • Visit the dentist regularly for preventive dental care. During a routine exam, the dentist can treat oral health issues before they become painful and expensive to treat.  The dentist can also detect signs of 120 diseases in the mouth that affect the rest of the body.
  • Start good oral health habits early in life. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children first visit the dentist within six months of getting the first tooth or by the first birthday.
  • Eat healthy and limit sugary snacks and drinks. Incorporate essential nutrients, like calcium, into your family’s diet to help strengthen your teeth and bones. Reducing sugar can also have a big impact on your or your child’s smile. Bacteria in the mouth feed on sugar and create acids that attack and wear down tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay.

Oral health is connected to overall health and well-being.  Developing good oral health habits early in life or improving your oral health habits as an adult can ensure you or your child have a healthy smile for a lifetime.

1This sample size yields a margin of error of ± 8 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.
2 This sample size yields a margin of error of ±5.6 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

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