The Unusual Flossing Habits of Americans

Flossing is an important part of any dental hygiene routine, and a recent survey conducted on behalf of Waterpik found that Americans have some pretty strange habits when it comes to cleaning between their teeth.

1,005 adults completed the survey in which they admitted to using some common yet unusual items to “floss” when appropriate tools weren’t available. These items included fingernails (61%), folded paper or cards (40%), cutlery (21%), safety pins (14%) and strands of hair (7%). 63% of participants said they knew better than to use these items over dental picks, interdental brushes, traditional floss and water flossing tool, with 42% admitting that they’ve felt pain as a result of using unusual items.

These results were similar to a separate American Dental Association (ADA) survey, where member dentists reported that their patients had told them they’ve used unsanitary and unsafe items too. In addition to those listed above, others claimed to use twigs, matchbooks, screwdrivers, pocket knives, and even loose electrical wires to clean between their teeth.  These findings make it clear that dental professionals need to talk with their patients about the importance of cleaning between their teeth with appropriate tools. If food debris is left to linger, it can cause plaque build-up, eventually leading to dental decay, gum sensitivity and bad breath.

“It’s really easy to use clean and safe items on-the-go and at home — like string floss, dental picks and water flosser,” said Dr. Brittany Seymour, ADA spokesperson and assistant professor at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, in a news release. “The key is finding what works best for you to stick with every day,” she added. “If you’re not sure, start by looking for products with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. That way, you know it’s safe for your teeth and will get the job done, removing germs rather than introducing them.”

Other important information found in the survey included:

  • 16% said they always floss at least once a day.
  • 20% said they only floss when they need to or when something is stuck in their teeth.
  • 8% said they never floss.
  • The biggest reason reported for not flossing among those who do not floss daily is because it’s too time consuming (55%). Another 16% said it was too painful and 9% said they find it gross.
  • 44% of those surveyed admit they have exaggerated to their dentist about how much they floss when asked.

ADA-accepted manual interdental cleaners include traditional string floss and wooden plaque removers. Earlier this year, Waterpik Water Flossers became the first powered interdental cleaner to earn the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which the product passed clinical and/or laboratory tests and met ADA and applicable American National Standards Institute-approved dental standards. To learn more about products with the ADA Seal of Acceptance, visit ADA.org/Seal.

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