Men's oral hygiene far behind women's

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Men will have to brush up on caring for their teeth and gums to equal the oral hygiene efforts of women, according to survey findings from the American Dental Association (ADA).

In the ADA's 2003 Public Opinion Survey: Oral Health of the U.S. Population, women say they take better care of their teeth than men. According to the survey, women were more likely than men to brush their teeth after every meal (28.7 percent to 20.5 percent) or twice a day (56.8 percent to 49 percent). The survey also revealed women were more likely to have a dentist than men (89.2 percent to 74.6%).

Overall, American adults recorded a slight increase among those brushing twice a day or after each meal to 78 percent in 2003 compared with 1997's 75.4 percent. But the most dramatic jump in brushing frequency occurred in the number of respondents saying they brushed after every meal, reaching 24.8 percent in 2003 compared with 11.5 percent in the 1997 survey.

The daily use of dental floss or an interdental cleaner rose slightly to 50.5 percent in 2003 compared with 1997's 48.2 percent.

"Being thorough in your daily oral hygiene lays the groundwork for a healthy smile," explains Dr. Kimberly Harms, ADA consumer advisor. "A daily routine of brushing and flossing, in addition to regular dental checkups, can be enough in most cases to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease."

The ADA recommends the following:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner. Decay-causing bacteria still lingers between teeth where toothbrush bristles can't reach. Flossing removes plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.
  • Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.

The survey, by Zogby International in December 2003, consisted of telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,014 adults aged 18 years and older who identified themselves as the head of household.

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing more than 149,000 members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer and professional products. For more information about the ADA, visit the Association's Web site at


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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