They Know You’re Not Flossing


It’s official – most Americans are not listening to their dental hygienists or dentists.

A new government study reveals what dental professionals already know. Only about 30% of Americans floss daily. Approximately one in three US adults never, ever floss, and another one-third do not floss daily.

The study, ominously titled “Prevalence of Failure to Floss among Adults” and billed as the “first nationally representative analysis designed to determine how many people floss their teeth” was conducted by a team of researchers led by Duong T. Nguyen, a medical epidemiologist, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nguyen is a member of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) – the agency’s training program for “disease detectives.” He was assigned to work with the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which provides an overview of the nation’s health status via interviews and examinations of 5,000 people annually.

Among many other things, those surveyed for NHANES are asked about their flossing habits. Nguyen and team collated data from 9,056 US adults ages 30 years and older who participated in the 2009-2012 NHANES. Besides figuring out how many Americans floss on average, they also looked at the correlations between flossing, age, sex, ethnic background and family income.

Their work revealed, among other things, that women are more likely to floss than men. 39 percent of males reported that they never floss, compared to females (27 percent). And the higher your income, the more likely you are to floss daily.

Overall, the study found that 30 percent Americans floss daily, about 37 percent do floss but not daily, and slightly over 32 percent never floss.

Nguyen told US News & World Report that he came up with the idea for the study when he was rummaging through his house one day looking for dental floss. He wondered “how many people really do [floss]…” and a little checking revealed that ‘nobody had ever performed a “rigorous, scientifically valid analysis” on flossing habits.

“Something as simple as flossing is, to a lot of people, a bane,” Nguyen told US News. “They don’t want to do it. Yet, in the long run it can be so beneficial – it can prevent tooth loss and everything that comes with it.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every two American adults aged 30 and over has periodontal disease. In adults 65 and older, prevalence rates increase to 70.1 percent.

Flossing is essential to your oral health because it helps remove harmful plaque bacteria from areas where your toothbrush simply can’t reach. These bacteria cause tooth decay (cavities) and gum disease—and if not cleared from tooth surfaces regularly, they harden into a tough coating called tartar (dental calculus), which must be removed via a professional cleaning.

Daily flossing helps you avoid a myriad of dental problems; but it isn’t a cure-all. To keep your mouth healthy and your teeth strong, you need regular checkups and professional cleanings.

If you’ve been delaying getting dental care due to budget issues, don’t wait any longer. A dental savings plan can cut the costs of dental care by 10%-60%. To find out more about dental savings plans, visit or call 1-800-238-5163.



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