Parents tell their kids to brush and floss their teeth regularly, but are they following their own advice?
New data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that plenty of adults don't brush or floss often enough. In oral health assessments from 2011 to 2012, dentists found that 91 percent of Americans between ages 20 and 64 have had cavities and 27 percent had untreated tooth decay.
Cavities and tooth decay are important oral health indicators. Neglecting your oral health can lead to serious complications, including tooth loss. The CDC report found that while two-thirds of adults younger than 40 had all their teeth, only about a third of those between 40 and 64 did.
Brushing and flossing are critical to maintaining proper oral hygiene. The American Dental Association recommends that people brush twice per day for two minutes each time. Flossing should be done at least once a day for two to three minutes.
Bryan Trump, DDS, a professor at the University of Utah School of Dentistry, says the critical step most of us tend to neglect in our oral hygiene routine is flossing. "[People think], if I've brushed and I can't see it, then I've done my job and it's clean," he says. In reality, plaque builds up in between teeth and underneath the gum line, where it can do damage, he says. "We're leaving behind the plaque and that biofilm where bugs can set up house."
Trump says there are also a few dietary steps people can take to protect their teeth. Avoid sipping on sugary drinks over the course of the day, and if you can't get to a sink with a toothbrush after eating or drinking, rinse your mouth out with water or chew sugarless gum to help wash away enamel-eroding acid.