Ask the Dentist: Is poor dental hygiene a personal choice?


Recently, a patient brought a magazine article from the United States that he strongly disagreed with. The gist of it is that, in most cases, dental disease in adults is a personal choice because it is avoidable. He claimed that he brushed and flossed regularly but did not understand where his periodontal disease originated.

Recently, a patient brought a magazine article from the United States that he strongly disagreed with. The gist of it is that, in most cases, dental disease in adults is a personal choice because it is avoidable. He claimed that he brushed and flossed regularly but did not understand where his periodontal disease originated.

Maintaining good oral hygiene is vital to overall health. While dental health problems are often classified as diseases, some believe that poor dental health should be considered a personal choice rather than a regular disease. Let’s look at the factors that contribute to poor dental health and understand the debate surrounding their classification.

First, what is the definition of poor dental health? Poor dental health involves a range of conditions, including cavities, gum disease and tooth loss. These problems occur due to a variety of factors, including inadequate dental hygiene, poor dietary choices, lack of dental care, and genetic predispositions. Maintaining good oral health requires regular brushing and flossing after anything other than water passes through your lips. Avoid excessive sugar intake and visit your dentist for a checkup and cleaning. Failure to adhere to these practices will lead to the development of dental disease.

The argument at the top of this column claims that this is a personal choice. Advocates believe that individuals have complete control over their own dental hygiene and take full responsibility for the consequences they face. They believe that personal choices, such as poor diet, neglect of oral hygiene habits and avoidance of dental visits, ultimately lead to the development of dental problems. Treating poor dental health as a personal choice promotes personal responsibility and encourages individuals to take responsibility for their actions, but they must buy into this idea.

Several factors can influence an individual's ability to maintain good dental health and, in turn, the perception of one's choices. Socioeconomic factors, such as limited access to quality dental care, including lack of insurance coverage or financial constraints, may prevent individuals from seeking timely treatment. This lack of opportunity can lead to worsening dental health.

Education is on the rise again. Limited awareness of the importance of oral health, proper dental care practices, and the potential consequences of poor dental health can lead to unwise choices.

Cultural practices, food habits, and traditions often influence an individual's oral health. For example, a diet rich in sugary snacks and drinks can lead to tooth decay. Some people may not take their oral health as seriously as others.

Dental anxiety, fears, and phobias can significantly impact an individual's ability to seek dental care, leading to neglect of oral health. In fact, 33% of North American adults have some kind of “dental phobia,” a fear of the dentist.

While the personal choice argument has its merits, it is important to recognize the limitations and challenges that come with using it to label poor dental health solely as a personal choice:

Poor dental health is often the result of a complex interaction of multiple factors, including genetics, socioeconomic factors and access to care. Simply attributing this to personal choice oversimplifies the issue.

Some people may lack adequate dental hygiene knowledge, making it difficult for them to make informed choices about their oral health. Ignorance is not always a conscious personal decision but can stem from a lack of access to appropriate education and information.

Dental health is influenced by broader social determinants, including income, education, environmental factors, and access to health care, including insurance-funded dental care. In our area, 66% of patients have some dental insurance, but some rarely take advantage of it to prevent oral disease. These factors can significantly impact an individual's ability to make informed choices regarding their oral health.

Classifying poor dental health as a personal choice or a routine condition is a complex issue. While personal choice does play an important role, it is important to consider a variety of influencing factors, including socioeconomic factors, education, cultural practices and access to health care. It is important to recognize the multifaceted nature of this situation. Currently, 75% of adults in North America have periodontal disease. It is treatable but insidious in nature as it may persist for years without noticeable discomfort. Adults have a habit of ignoring dental problems that may not be causing pain yet.

Your first step is always regular checkups and professional hygiene visits. If you haven’t booked your next appointment yet, make today “the day”!

Dr. Michael Dolynchuk is a general dentist practicing in Caroline and Red Deer.



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