When it comes to dating and desire, good teeth and fresh breath play a big role, according to a new Harris Poll commissioned by Dentistry.com. While it’s no surprise that 90% of Americans surveyed agree that bad teeth can have a negative impact on a person’s personal and professional life, the implications for finding love are even more far-reaching.
The 2019 “State of the American Mouth Report” found:
- Nearly half of those surveyed said they would end a relationship if their partner had bad breath.
- 67% admitted they would swipe left on a dating app if pictures revealed a person had bad teeth.
- Millennials were the age group most likely to associate good teeth with great sex, with 43% agreeing that a great smile is a likely sign of a good lover.
These results come as no surprise to Mark Burhenne, DDS, a Sunnyvale, CA dentist and founder of AsktheDentist.com. “I'd say the majority of cosmetic work I do is based on a desire to be attractive for a relationship, whether in general or to keep a current significant other.”
Sound superficial? Dr. Burhenne says it goes deeper than we think and may actually be hard-wired into us. “I think it's more likely that our evolutionary programming tells us to look for a mate who seems new and shiny and good for reproducing. For those who have bad breath or look like they haven't taken good care of their teeth, the evolutionary prospects aren’t as appealing.”
Couples Who Whiten Together, Stay Together?
Seeking a more perfect smile for the sake of love drives some to spend tens of thousands of dollars on cosmetic surgery, Dr. Burhenne says. But that’s not the norm. The three most common treatments he’s asked to do to help people become more confident in their relationships are (in order of expense) whitening, Invisalign and veneers. Sometimes, both partners even end up coming in for whitening so their smiles “match.”
Dentists may also do lip fillers, botox, and even remove old fillings to improve the final look for an online dating photo, but those are less common, he says.
Removing the Stigma of Bad Breath
When patients ask his assistant to leave the room, Dr. Burhenne says questions about bad breath are usually on their minds. Unlike poor-looking teeth, Burhenne says bad breath is a systemic problem that can be caused by a number of things including overuse of mouthwash, dry mouth, gum disease, tooth decay and even digestive issues. “Depending on why a patient's breath is bad, we'll try to get to the root cause. They are often embarrassed or concerned about relationship issues, but I try to educate them about the deeper health issues they may have uncovered.”
4 Self Care Tips to Try at Home
Whether the issue is bad breath or something more cosmetic, here are some of Dr. Burhenne’s top DIY tips to improve your breath and smile at home.
- Tongue scraping: This simple practice takes less than a minute and is quite effective at removing excess bacteria that live on your tongue, Burhenne says. “Your toothbrush isn't designed to really make a dent on the tongue, but a scraper can really do the trick.”
- Brushing and flossing: Of course, this is a given. But Burhenne emphasizes that brushing every morning, night, and 30-45 minutes after starchy meals makes a massive difference to the health of your teeth. Plus, flossing at least several times a week helps to preemptively stave off issues that can cause cosmetic and bad breath problems later, like gum disease and tooth decay.
- Diet: Too much sugar or starchy carbohydrates can cause candidiasis of the mouth (oral thrush), which can produce unpleasant sulfur-like smells. Carbohydrates, particularly those from refined sugars, also encourage tooth decay and gum disease-causing bacteria to grow.
- Ditch the "breath fresheners": Whether it's antibacterial mouthwash or essential oils, products that keep your breath fresh for 20 minutes may not be helpful in the long run, Burhenne says. “While it might feel nice to have minty fresh breath every once in awhile, these breath fresheners can kill off all your mouth's bacteria, throwing off the balance of your oral microbiome.”
Burhenne also likes to remind people that healthy breath isn’t naturally minty, and that’s OK. “Healthy breath has a smell to it. It shouldn't be incredibly off-putting, but it doesn't smell like peppermint, either. I encourage patients to be okay with their natural, normal breath instead of trying to achieve something false.”
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