Dating obstacles abound—lack of chemistry, mismatched values, snarky attitude—but it turns out (bad) oral health is a bigger problem in the dating world than most of us realize.
Poor oral hygiene ranks high on the list of reasons women say they’ll break up with someone: more than one out of four women say they will end a relationship with someone who does not do brush twice a day. But a strong smile game matters to men too. Healthy teeth take the cake as most attractive "must-have" feature by a whopping 58 percent of men and 71 percent of women, according to a Match.com survey of over 5,000 people. According to this study, teeth have a more significant impact on desire than hair, nails, shoes, or the car a person drives.
Darwin, dating, and dental health
Such judgment calls may stem from biological instinct. One of the Match.com survey researchers shared: "From a Darwinian perspective, good teeth are a real indication of your health—how much you drink, smoke, what you're eating." The state of your dental health signals the level of care you have for your overall health and hygiene to a potential date.
While it may sound far-fetched for a woman to ditch a date who does not replace their toothbrush every few months, think again: better brush up if you want to keep her interested because 74 percent of ladies say good oral health is one of the sexiest qualities a person can have. And all these years, you thought your dentist was just being a nag about the whole brush twice a day and flossing thing.
All ages agree that a good smile is desirable
Crossing generational and age lines—nearly 80% of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers agree that good smile care tops their list of what they find sexy. And it’s not just Americans who feel this way—a UK survey found that oral health is the biggest turn-off on a first date.
Forty-five percent cited bad breath or yellow/crooked teeth as their biggest dating no-no. But lousy breath may take first prize as the most common dating turn-off.
Up to 85 percent may be dissuaded from date #2 by this malodorous issue. And foul breath may foul up even the most promising pairing—57% of those in the UK survey who left a partner pointed it out as the offending dental health concern.
Self-confidence and oral health: two peas in a pod
Doesn’t seem like much of a surprise then, that oral health and self-confidence are inextricably braided together. Poor oral health not only negatively impacts self-esteem, but it may also get in the way of being social for fear of being judged. And young folks may be disproportionately affected. If some millennials have not had their frowns turned upside down, there’s ample reason. A study by the American Dental Association found they're mired in anguish—from tooth and gum pain to angst about the shoddy condition of their teeth.
One in three young adults aged 18 to 34 are reluctant to smile—which may be misread by others as anger, sadness, aggression, or untrustworthiness. These factors can impact not just your dating game but your whole life.
28% of young adults say their less-than-perfect grill compromises their confidence during job interviews—potentially undermining their performance in an outsize way during the hiring process. And further, good teeth may yield great outcomes, proof that perception can shape reality. Americans think that those with straight teeth are 45 percent more likely to land a job than those with crooked teeth, despite having the same skills and experience.
A different study by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry echoes the ADA study—finding that a great smile made people look more successful, intelligent, and wealthy to others.
So, what to do?
The good news is that unlike finding your soul mate or perfect job, practicing good preventive oral healthcare is simple: brush, floss, and visit your dentist regularly—your love life, career, and happy mouth will thank you.
We like to say that the key to oral health is good habits, and oral health matters more than your appearance. Unlike finding your soul mate or perfect job, practicing good preventive oral healthcare is simple: brush, floss, and visit your dentist regularly—your love life, career, and happy mouth will thank you.