Why oral care brands should brush up on the generation gap

Streetbees spoke to 1,100 people around the world to explore dental hygiene habits and attitudes across different age groups

Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash
You can access the full set of results here — all we need is a few details, and you can dive in!

Brushing your teeth: a cornerstone of your daily routine, right? Not for everyone, according to a new study from Streetbees.

More than 3 in 4 people aged 26–45 consider cleaning their teeth an important part of their daily routine. So far, so expected. But looking at those 25 and under, that figure drops to just 1 in 2 — meaning half of young people are ambivalent about the need to clean their teeth.

In fact, a sizeable minority — 1 in 5 — say they spend as little time as possible cleaning their teeth. The reason? Almost 50% cite a busy lifestyle, while a further 20% put it down to apathy.

“For me, it’s just laziness,” one of our bees said, “I never take the time to clean them properly”. “I have no excuse”, said another, “I just can’t be bothered”.

The kids are all white(ning)

Another striking feature of the results? Priorities. Among the young, there is a clear sway towards appearance, with 1 in 3 more concerned with how white their teeth look, rather than how healthy they are. For over 25s, that figure is just 1 in 10.

When asked the most important aspect regarding oral care, 2 in 3 opted against ‘healthy teeth and gums’, instead selecting ‘white teeth’, ‘fresh breath’ and ‘stain free teeth’, among others. However, this begins to change as you get older, with 1 in 2 over-25s choosing the health of their teeth over all else.

So the older you get, the more products you use?

It’s an easy assumption to make, but it’s untrue. Looking at mouthwash, the most popular addition to the teeth-cleaning routine, there’s a clear sway towards younger users. More than 1 in 2 in the US and UK use it every single day, whereas that figure drops to below 1 in 3 for those over-25.

We already know that many under-25s have a somewhat relaxed attitude to oral care, and mouthwash is seen as a quick fix — 2 in 3 use it to improve their dental hygiene, something that makes sense when considering the number of people that spend as little time as possible on their teeth and gums.

“Mouthwash destroys the bacteria without having to brush”, an 18-year-old respondent said. “It’s quick and easy to use, and it doesn’t hurt your gums like some other products”.

Statistics shown for UK and US markets

What does this mean for brands?

For brands targeting under-25s, the focus is clear: style (and speed) over healthcare. For Millennial and Gen Z consumers, a fast-paced, social lifestyle means that concerns over health and hygiene take a backseat — and the products they use need to cater to that.

While many consider their looking after their teeth as an inconvenience, they are still aware of the need to look after themselves; unlock a way for them to cut corners, and reap the rewards.

The older generations pose a different problem; while they still face the same issues surrounding time constraints, they possess more of an appreciation for the effort it takes to maintain healthy teeth and gums. For brands, targeting this sweet spot is key to success.

More findings from the wide-ranging study include:

  • US consumers are more conscious about bad breath than they are of overall hygiene
  • 1 in 3 South Africans say their toothpaste is ‘not effective at all’
  • 4 in 5 men think they should be doing more to maintain their dental health

You can access the dashboard with the full set of results here — all we need is a few details, and you can dive in!

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A quick word on our methodology: The figures in the article are taken from Streetbees community members in the UK, US and South Africa, carried out in March 2018. All of the data was collected by mobile and web surveys, and is accurate to within 3 percentage points 19 times out of 20.