New data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey finds that nearly one-third of American adults — 32.4% — aren’t flossing their teeth at all. Another 37.3% reported less than regular flossing, while only 37.3% attest to daily flossing.
The results come from a self-reported survey of 9,000 people aged 30 or over asked about their oral hygiene habits. The study also found that African Americans and Hispanics were less likely to floss than their white peers and that low-income individuals were also less keen on regular flossing than middle or higher-income households.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Duong Nguyen, said the findings emphasize a continued need for outreach and education programs on dental hygiene.
“I think it’s one of those things people don’t know enough about,” Nguyen told CNN. “We are telling people to floss, but if we don’t tell them why and what it prevents, that could be one of the barriers. We need to improve health practices and make sure people understand something as easy as flossing can prevent a whole host of other dental issues for you as you age and grow up.”
Daily flossing can help prevent the buildup of plaque, which otherwise may eventually turn into tartar and tooth decay that can’t be eradicated by simple at-home toothpaste and brushing.
Moreover, only half of adults in the U.S. report visiting a dentist every six months as recommended. In Maryland, 66% of low-income adults cite cost as a prohibitive factor for visiting the dentist, even while 18% describe the overall condition of their mouth and teeth as “poor.”
Nguyen suggested that the importance and benefits of flossing should be reiterated by all health care professionals, not just dentists.
“I think everything goes back to education,” Nguyen said. “Repetition is the key to mastering. If you hear it more and hear it from different places, maybe it will stick a little more.”