Poor oral healthcare routines are leaving many people at risk of a range of health conditions, experts have warned.
The National Dental Survey 2008, which is being launched alongside National Smile Month, discovered that only one in seven people realise that gum disease is associated with an increased risk of stroke and diabetes, and only one in four know of the link with heart disease.
Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, described the public's awareness of the importance of good dental health as "very low indeed".
"The link between gum disease and conditions like heart disease, strokes, diabetes and, in the case of pregnant women, low birth weight babies has been well documented and is backed by robust scientific evidence," the expert revealed.
"When you think that this same survey found that one in three people brush their teeth for less than a minute and a percentage only really clean on special occasions, then you start to realise just how important it is to make people aware of the health risks associated with a poor dental routine."
The public's dental health is also suffering because of a shortage of NHS dentists, with a letter in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal revealing that many GPs are seeing people in need of dental treatment
because they cannot gain access to a dentist.