Studies Show African Americans More Likely to Have Poor Oral Hygiene Habits


    A new study revealed that only 30% of the United States population flosses their teeth daily.

    A branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Epidemic Intelligence Service, surveyed 5,000 Americans annually on their average health habits in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. One section included flossing patterns.

    Researchers examined the data from 9,056 U.S. adults aged 30 and over who participated in the study between 2009 and 2012. They found that 39% of males were more likely never to floss compared to 27% of females, and 45% of people 75 years and older did not floss compared to their younger counterparts between 30 and 44.

    They also found that 40% African-Americans reported never flossing, a higher rate than non-Hispanic white adults. In addition, almost half (49%) of lower-income survey participants did not floss their teeth.

    When done properly, flossing removes small food particles that are stuck to the teeth. If they are not dislodged, they can create colonies of bacteria that can cause inflammation and gum disease.

    Additionally, large amounts of oral bacteria can lead to pancreatic cancer according to researchers at New York University.

    Those with pancreatic cancer are known to be more prone to overall poor dental hygiene, including gum disease and cavities.

    This susceptibility led the researchers to look for direct links between oral bacteria and cancer, in order to be able to diagnose patients earlier.

    Dr. Jiyoung Ahn, senior investigator and epidemiologist tells Dentistry IQ that patients with high levels of oral bacteria had a 59% higher risk to develop pancreatic cancer.

    She goes on to state, “Our study offers the first direct evidence that specific changes in the microbial mix in the mouth—the oral microbiome—represent a likely risk factor for pancreatic cancer along with older age, male gender, smoking, African-American race, and a family history of the disease.”

    Ahn also calls for further research in order to determine a cause-and-effect relationship that will link smoking and oral bacteria.

    A high amount of oral bacteria can lead to discolored, misshapen teeth. In order to mend these bad habits, Americans visit their cosmetic dentist and spend in total $1.4 billion on tooth whitening products and procedures annually.