Half of Scottish adults now clean between their teeth regularly

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Interdental brushing has overtaken traditional floss for the first time but Scottish cities have mixed results when it comes to the habit of cleaning in between teeth, research as part of oral health campaign National Smile Month has revealed.

The new poll conducted by the Oral Health Foundation found more than half of Scottish adults now clean between their teeth at least a few times every week (58%), with over one in three doing so daily (39%), more than double compared to a decade ago.

However, while cities such as Edinburgh and Aberdeen performed well when compared to the rest of the United Kingdom, Glasgow were found to be least regular flossers in Britain. Just over one four Glaswegians clean in between their teeth once a day (27%), significantly less than Edinburgh (43%) and more than half that of Aberdeen (60%).

Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said the findings demonstrate the growing interest in oral health and hygiene and explains why interdental cleaning is important.

Dr Carter said: “Over the last few years Scotland has developed a series of excellent oral health promotion services so it’s no surprise to hear that they perform well when compared to the rest of the UK. Despite the results in Glasgow being lower than expected, we have seen a significant increase in interdental cleaning here when compared to a generation ago so things are certainly going in the right direction.

“We are seeing people become much more health conscious, which extends far beyond our general health and wellbeing, to now include the role which the health of our mouth plays within this too.

“In recent years’ gum disease has been linked with general health conditions such as diabetes, strokes, cardiovascular disease, poor pregnancy outcomes and even dementia so the importance of looking after the health of our gums through a good oral hygiene routine is even more important than ever.

“Brushing alone only cleans three of the five surfaces of our teeth, so cleaning between them is a critical part of good oral hygiene as it helps to prevent gum disease by removing plaque from areas the toothbrush alone cannot reach.

“We have also found that cleaning in between teeth is particularly important for groups such as the elderly, the very young and those with auto-immune disease, all of who are more susceptible to infections from the bacteria in the mouth.”

Further results from the survey discovered more than a third of British adults now choose interdental brushes (34%) to clean in between their teeth, surpassing traditional floss (26%) for the first time. The other methods which were favoured included floss tape, floss harps and waterjets such as the Phillips AirFloss.

This could be good news, as a recent investigation by the Associated Press said there was no definitive evidence that dental floss prevents caries or gum disease, labelling the evidence for flossing as ‘weak, very unreliable’ and of ‘very low’ quality.

“For some time the recommendation in the UK has been to use interdental brushes rather than floss as the evidence for their effectiveness is stronger,” added Dr Carter.

“While there is no suggestion that flossing can be damaging to oral health, there is limited evidence as to its effectiveness. If you are flossing, and flossing well, it will cause no harm and it is probably not advisable to give up but you might want to try interdental brushes as an alternative.”

Organised by the Oral Health Foundation, National Smile Month is a charity a campaign which aims to engage and educate more people about the importance of a healthy mouth by encourage twice daily brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, reducing the amount of sugar in our diet and visiting the dentist, as often as they recommend.

National Smile Month, is sponsored by Oral-B and takes place between 15 May and 15 June. The campaign will see thousands of dental and health professionals go out into local communities across the country in a bid to improve standards of oral health across the UK.

The charity campaign is also being supported by some of the nation’s best-known brands and retailers including Wrigley’s Extra, POLO® Sugar Free, Philips and Regenerate.