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More Than a Quarter of US Adults are Dishonest with Dentists about How Often They Floss Their Teeth

Posted on Tuesday, June 23, 2015

CHICAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A new national survey released today reveals more than a quarter (27 percent) of U.S. adults admit they lie to their dentist about how often they floss their teeth. Additionally, more than one-third of Americans (36 percent) would rather do an unpleasant activity like cleaning the toilet (14 percent) over daily flossing. Along with brushing teeth twice a day and an annual comprehensive periodontal evaluation from a periodontist, daily flossing is a critical component in the prevention of periodontal disease. The survey was conducted online in March by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) among 2,021 U.S. adults and among the top 10 U.S. markets.

Commonly referred to as gum disease, periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease caused when bacteria in plaque below the gum line lead to swelling, irritation, and possibly receding gums and tooth loss. Periodontal disease has been linked to many chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer. Despite its prevalence, periodontal disease is hardly ever discussed, resulting in a lack of urgency for people to properly care for their gums.

“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,” says AAP President Joan Otomo-Corgel, DDS, MPH. “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.”

The new survey revealed a list of unpleasant activities Americans would choose over flossing, such as washing a sink full of dirty dishes (18 percent) or waiting in a long check-out line (14 percent). Nearly one in ten U.S. adults would rather sit in gridlock traffic for an hour or do their taxes (9 percent each).

Healthiest Mouths By State, Region

Interestingly, the survey also revealed some regional distinctions in oral health care. Among the top 10 U.S. markets, Chicagoans are more likely than those in other regions to opt for an hour of gridlock traffic over daily flossing. However, New Yorkers are more likely than those in other metro areas to include flossing in their personal care routine.

Southern manners could also be at play. Those who live in Atlanta are more likely than those in other top metro regions to be honest with their dentist about their flossing routine. Atlantans also are more likely than those in other top metro regions to tell friends when they have something stuck in their teeth. On the contrary, those who live in D.C. are more likely than those in other top metro regions not to alert a friend of any potentially embarrassing lunch leftovers.

Love The Gums You’re With

When it comes to relationships, those with and without partners should take note. Three in five (60 percent) U.S. adults who have a partner say their partner’s oral health (e.g., teeth, gums, breath) has an effect on their intimacy, while over a third of Americans say a smile is the first thing they notice when meeting someone they are attracted to. In fact, more than two in five of those living in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Boston say a smile is the first thing they notice when meeting someone they are attracted to. This is especially true for women. So men, who are less likely to include oral care as a top priority, may want to up their game and schedule an annual periodontal visit.

Take Action

The AAP urges all Americans to Love the Gums You’re With and take better care of their gums by adopting simple improvements to their oral hygiene. To aid in the prevention of periodontal disease, the AAP recommends brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily and discussing periodontal health with a dental professional.

Each patient is unique, and a dental professional can make a referral to a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease, for a comprehensive periodontal evaluation and specialized periodontal treatment plan.

For more information, visit to find a periodontist near you who can create a personalized plan to help support a life-long commitment to healthy gums. You also can learn the signs and symptoms of periodontal disease and receive tips on how to properly care for your gums.


This survey was conducted online within the United States between March 20-24, 2015, among 2,021 adults ages 18 and older by Harris Poll, on behalf of American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) via its QuickQuery omnibus product, and from March 24-30, 2015, via its Major Market Query omnibus product among the following top 10 U.S. markets: New York City (n=212), Los Angeles (n=211), Chicago (n=212), Philadelphia (n=211), Dallas-Fort Worth (n=212), San Francisco (n=214), Boston (n=212), Washington, DC (n=213), Atlanta (n=210), and Houston (n=209). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

About Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth that form plaque below the gum line. 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. Poor oral hygiene is a primary cause of periodontal disease, but several other risk factors play a role in the development and progression of the disease including smoking, age, and genetics. While periodontal disease is mostly preventable and treatable, the early warning signs can be painless, leading to a lack of urgency in people to establish adequate oral hygiene habits or to discuss their periodontal health with a dental professional. With an appropriate diagnosis, the damage from periodontal disease is reversible in many cases.

About the American Academy of Periodontology

The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) is the professional organization for periodontists – specialists in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth, and in the placement of dental implants. Periodontists are also dentistry’s experts in the treatment of oral inflammation. They receive three additional years of specialized training following dental school, and periodontics is one of the nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association. The AAP has 8,200 members worldwide. For more information, visit

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