Shorts: oral health

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2012, 6:11pm

There's an old saying that goes: you only need to floss the teeth you want to keep. If that's the case, then nearly half of Hongkongers don't want their fangs.

University of Hong Kong's faculty of dentistry last month randomly polled 532 adults over the phone. It found that almost half the respondents had never flossed and 77 per cent had never used other interdental cleaning aids. The reasons for not flossing were inconvenience and a belief that it was unnecessary.

Colman McGrath, HKU clinical professor in dental public health, says the statistics are troubling, as "flossing or interdental cleaning is essential to attain oral health".

He says brushing alone is not enough because it's impossible to get in between the teeth. A study published in the
Journal of Periodontology in 2008 found that people who did not floss had significantly more gum-disease-causing bacteria compared with people who did.

The HKU survey, commissioned by electric toothbrush brand Philips Sonicare, found that almost half of respondents thought their oral health was "fair" or "poor". One in five brushed for fewer than the recommended two minutes. Almost half said it had been more than one year since they had seen a dentist (it should be at least once a year).

The survey also analysed the impact of oral health on physical, psychological and social well-being. Almost a third claimed that oral health affected their psychological well-being, and 29 per cent said it affected romantic relationships.

McGrath says that oral diseases are the most common health problem experienced by people worldwide. "Oral diseases are largely behavioural and social in origin and indeed the best ways to prevent these and to protect and maintain your oral health is through behavioural and social means."

He suggests that there should be more public education regarding oral health.