The noughties are fast drawing to a close and we are approaching the second decade of the ‘new’ millennium.

To mark this occasion, Colgate Total has undertaken a spot of ‘crystal ball gazing’ to predict the ways in which we care for our teeth are likely to have changed by 2020.

Working in association with trends consultancy the Future Laboratories, Colgate Total launched a report investigating the future of oral health in the UK. The report identifies current trends in today’s society and examines how they will impact the way we look after our teeth.

Here are three predictions for the future:

The ubiquitous nature of social networking will continue with people increasingly starting to develop ‘online personas’ that can bear little resemblance to real life and first impressions becoming all the more important. The ‘perfect smile’ will start to be seen as a key indicator of success in other areas of life.

Early indicators
• 40% of people interviewed viewed a good personal appearance to be as important as health and happiness
• 54% of people interviewed believed oral health to be essential for making a good impression
• In 2009, Snappy Snaps reported a 550% increase in requests for airbrushing, fuelled by people wanting to improve their image on social networking sites

Advances in technology look set to help people to work within their busy lifestyles to help maintain their oral hygiene. With handsets already available which allow people to monitor their weight, eating habits, exercise and blood pressure, the invention of a device that can check everything from plaque and bacteria to infection and recovery seems likely in the near future.

Early Indicators
• 40% of over 50s interviewed believed that online or virtual technology would be able to help their future health needs
• The University of Liverpool has designed gadget called Inspektor K which allows people to see plaque build-up usually invisible to human eye
• Researchers in the US have discovered the gene which controls the growth of tooth enamel. According to the British Dental Health Foundation this could lead to the repair of damaged teeth with a layer of new enamel

Lifestyles of the British 20-somethings are increasingly dictated by the need to be constantly connected to the internet. These consumers expect health products and services to mould to their lifestyle rather than dictate their behaviour. In line with other health practitioners, dentists are increasing their services to guide self-treatment, self diagnosis and home monitoring in response demands of the ‘time-poor’ public.

Thanks to advances in communications technology, this will become a daily occurrence over the next 10 years.

Early Indicators
• The development of the NHS Direct/Choices websites and helplines. These give people access to credible information, online help and diagnosis and patient reviews on services. According to research, NHS Direct takes more than eight million calls per year.
• PayPal research has discovered that 36% of Britons currently clarify their medical queries online
• Oral health problems are currently the second most common reason for calling NHS Direct