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Time to Talk About – Oral Hygiene Study

In 2008 the American Dental Association (ADA), in collaboration with Crest and Oral-B, published a study of oral hygiene in the US. Titled, "The Public Speaks Up on Oral Health Care," the study surveyed a random sample of 1,000 Americans on their understanding of their own dental health; their knowledge of effective dental care; oral health habits among youth; and the importance of a healthy smile.

From our perspective here at the Dental Health Blog, and even as a practicing Littleton area prosthodontist seeing dental patients on a daily basis, some of the information in the study is startling.

From the study:

  • Americans agree that taking care of one’s mouth, teeth and gums is "absolutely needed" (80%) — as many or more who say eating well (80%), getting a good night’s sleep (76%) and regular exercise (71%) are absolutely needed.
  • Yet, only one-third of Americans say they do an "excellent" job of taking care of their mouth, teeth and gums (33%), and fewer still say their oral health is "excellent" (26%). Notably, there is a 47-point gap between the number of Americans believing that taking good care of one’s mouth, teeth and gums is "absolutely needed" and the number doing an "excellent job" in this area (80% versus 33%).
  • Nearly one American in four (22%) says he or she is "fanatical" about brushing and keeping his or her teeth clean, and most (66%) say they "don’t mind" brushing.
  • Yet, one in five Americans admits to not brushing twice a day.
  • More than four in 10 (43%) say they don’t know when to change their toothbrush.
  • Only half of Americans (49%) say they floss their teeth once a day or more often, and 10% say they never floss.
  • Though dentists recommend the use of mouthwash or rinse as an important addition to the oral care routine on a case-by-case basis, 52% of Americans say they don’t believe that mouthwash and rinses have any health benefits.
  • Americans definitely take note of stained teeth; three in four (73%) agree that no matter how nice a person’s smile is, yellow teeth ruin the effect. Some (27%) avoid eating certain foods and drinks to keep from staining their smile.

Perhaps the most distressing information contained within the study is the lack of frequency with which Americans visit their dentist, whether for check-ups or information. Also of concern are the reasons for this, as well as the consequences.

Aside from cost and lack of adequate insurance, when asked why they don’t visit a dentist regularly:

  • 34% of those who didn’t see a dentist in the past year say they have other doctors to see.
  • 33% say they have other, more important, health issues to tend to.
  • 19% say it is not a priority for them right now.

This may be of concern, considering:

  • One in eight Americans reports having difficulty with normal daily activities because of problems with his or her mouth, teeth and gums.
  • Half of Americans (51%) say they are currently experiencing one or more oral health conditions.
  • 33% say they are unaware that periodontal disease needs to be treated and cannot be left alone.
  • 3% say they think a little bleeding from brushing is normal.
  • 37% don’t know that poor oral health has been associated with other serious health conditions, including stroke, heart disease and diabetes.

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