Despite growing evidence that advanced gum disease may increase the risk of broader health problems, the public still believes the main benefits of oral hygiene to be whiter teeth or a better smile.
However, 98 per cent of surveyed dental professionals believe that there is a link between oral health and overall health and 94 per cent claim to discuss the association with some of their patients.
In addition, 65 per cent of physicians say that they discuss the issue with patients.
Dr Gregg Lituchy, an expert in the field of dental health, commented: "It's great to see that physicians as well as dentists are informing their patients about this emerging science, but we also need to take it a step further by recommending immediate actions that our patients can take to make a difference."
The dentist recommends patients brush their teeth twice daily, floss once a day and rinse with mouthwash for 30 seconds twice a day, in addition to making regular visits to the dentist.
Finding an NHS dentist can be difficult in the UK and many people choose to visit private dentists instead.
Over 80 per cent of surveyed consumers said that they brush their teeth at least twice a day; 60 per cent use an antiseptic mouth rinse; and only 56 per cent floss on a regular basis.
The likely connection between oral and overall health is not yet understood, although researchers are currently exploring the role of germs, inflammation of the gums, genetics and lifestyle habits, including smoking.
"We do know, however, that periodontitis is a bacterial infection, characterised in part by inflammation of the gums," said Dr William Meggs, professor of emergency medicine and chief of medical toxicology at East Carolina University's School of Medicine.
"Many experts believe that inflammation, in the mouth and elsewhere in the body, is a common thread linking a broad range of health problems."
© Adfero Ltd
Dentistry news : 11/08/2006