Now that we are well into 2015, how many of us are following our New Year’s resolution? Your hygienist may have asked you to floss more, be more consistent with your routine dental cleanings, or fill some of those untreated cavities. Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a progress report on the Healthy People 2020 initiative. The HHS found that only 44.5 percent of Americans are visiting the dentist which is less than the trends since 2007, and is still 5 percent less than the program’s target of 49 percent.

A 2008 report published by the American Dental Association (ADA) stated that 83 percent of Americans claimed their dentist to be their primary source of dental and oral hygiene practice information. For example, a hygienist may explain that flossing is the most effective method to remove plaque and bacteria from between the teeth. That is 40 percent of the tooth structure that would remain unclean if flossing is not done with brushing.

The ADA also reports that 164 million work hours are lost each year due to oral disease. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) reports that 26 percent of adults ranging 20 to 64 years in age have untreated dental decay. Therefore, the ADA recommends a dental exam and professional cleaning twice a year to prevent and diagnose oral disease as a part of maintaining oral and overall health. If dental decay is left untreated, the teeth are at higher risk for infection or pain, and may lead to extensive, costly dental treatment to resolve the problem. Early detection and treatment of dental decay is the key to avoiding dental treatment outside of routine cleanings and exams.

Still, the key to oral health and a decay free mouth is at-home oral hygiene. The ADA found only 49 percent of Americans claim they floss at least once a day or more often. The ADA recommends brushing twice a day and flossing once a day to prevent dental decay and gum diseases. A new year of brushing and flossing daily, two routine visits to the dental office, and treating untreated dental decay could get every person on track to a healthy smile.

• Dr. Rashmi (Rush) Bhatnagar, DMD, MPH, can be contacted at (480) 598-5900 or visit

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