The study looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey
to determine the percentage of American adults who neglect to floss their teeth. Researchers examined self-reports of more than 9,000 adults, ages 30 and older, who gave the number of days they flossed the week before.
The results showed that 32.4% of adults reported no flossing, 37.3% reported less than daily flossing and 30.3% reported daily flossing in the past week.
The study also found that failure to floss was higher in men than women, higher for those 75 or older than those 30 to 44, and higher among non-Hispanic black and Hispanic adults than non-Hispanic white adults. Low-income participants were also less likely to floss than higher-income participants.
Study author Dr. Duong Nguyen said the results call for stronger patient education to inform people about the benefits of flossing.
"I think everything goes back to education," said Nguyen, an epidemic intelligence service officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
He also said that flossing should be discussed with primary care physicians, not just at dental visits.
"Repetition is the key to mastering," Nguyen said. "If you hear it more and hear it from different places, maybe it will stick a little more."
Flossing removes food between the teeth and prevents the buildup of plaque. According to Nguyen, if you don't floss every day, over time, the plaque will turn into tartar, which can't be removed at home with toothpaste. Tartar can eat away at the tooth and gums that surround the tooth, breaking it down and creating pockets where the tooth becomes loose and eventually falls out, he said.
"I think it's one of those things people don't know enough about," Nguyen said. "We are telling people to floss, but if we don't tell them why and what it prevents, that could be one of the barriers. We need to improve health practices and make sure people understand something as easy as flossing can prevent a whole host of other dental issues for you as you age and grow up."