According to a recent survey released earlier this week, plenty of us are fibbing about flossing to our dentists — 27 percent, to be exact. And more than a third would rather partake in enjoyable activities like doing the dishes, listening to a screaming kid on an airplane, or sitting in traffic than regularly scrape between our teeth.
More specifically, the list of the “Would You Rathers” also includes cleaning the toilet, waiting in a long check-out line (both 14 percent), and doing taxes (nine percent). Left unanswered is whether Americans would choose flossing over meeting their partner’s family for the first time, making conversation with that weird coworker who keeps staring at you when they think you aren’t looking, and settling a group check for dinner with 10 credit cards.
The poll, commissioned by the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), surveyed 2,021 adults across 10 major cities (New Yorkers proved to be the most floss-loving city, by the way). Its sobering results point to a large gap between the need and the actual desire to maintain proper oral care. “There’s clearly more work to be done when it comes to educating Americans about the importance of oral hygiene. There are more than 500 bacterial species that can be found in plaque, and brushing alone does not remove the bacteria that live below the gum line,” said AAP President Dr. Joan Otomo-Corgel.
That plaque can build up and lead to periodontal disease, or an infection and inflammation of the gums. And unfortunately, as our mouth goes, so too does the rest of our health. A growing amount of evidence supports a link between gum disease and a variety of chronic and even life-threatening illnesses like heart disease, certain cancers, and even Alzheimer’s. According to the AAP, as much as half the country over the age of 30 is suffering from some form of gum disease.
Serious but abstract threats aside, bad mouth hygiene may just sink your chances of romance, with the poll finding that 60 percent said that their partner’s oral health had an influence on their level of intimacy. And about a third said that the first thing they notice when scoping a potential new beau was their smile, a trend that was noticeably higher for women, at 41 percent.
Not all hope is lost, though, if you’ve been failing to floss. “The good news about periodontal disease is, with proper and timely care, it’s treatable and often reversible. If a person is at risk for periodontal disease, a periodontist has the training and expertise to determine the best course of treatment,” Otomo-Corgel said.
For those who are endlessly befuddled by the intricacies of floss-work, the AAP, through its Love The Gums You’re With public health campaign, is offering people the opportunity to learn more about how to protect their teeth, including where to find their closest dentist for a check-up. Currently, it’s recommended that we brush twice a day and floss once during the day to maintain those pearly whites.
And yes, thanks to the miracle of those mirrors on a stick — mouth mirrors if we’re being periodontal — your dentist will be able to tell if you’ve been lying about your flossing. So, aside from temporarily feeling better about your life choices, there’s no point in lying about your teeth cleaning habits — and at least 32 reasons to improve them.