You might think that in an increasingly germ-o-phobic nation, people would take extra care to eliminate oral disease-causing germs from their mouths, but you'd be wrong. While nearly 80 percent of Americans feel concerned about germs on their hands, only 66 percent worry about germs in their mouths, according to the new "Healthy Mouths" report from the makers of LISTERINE® Antiseptic and REACH® brand.

What's more, while nearly all Americans surveyed (95 percent) agreed that they need to do more than just brush to keep their mouths healthy, only one in three floss or rinse with mouthwash in the morning, and less than half see a dentist twice a year for preventative visits. The fact is that many people don't realize that brushing only cleans approximately 25 percent of your mouth, which is why dentist Dr. John Dodes recommends that Americans start redefining their routine when it comes to oral care.

"One mouth can have more germs than there are people on earth and emerging science suggests that some of these germs may be linked with chronic diseases," said John E. Dodes*, D.D.S., a general dentist in Forest Hills, NY, and the author of Healthy Teeth: A User's Guide. "Oral health should not be taken lightly which is why I advise my patients to brush, floss and rinse with a therapeutic mouthwash twice a day and of course, visit their dentist regularly to prevent problems and keep their mouths healthy."

Barriers to Going "Beyond Brushing"

Perhaps many of us rely on brushing alone because we think of cavities as the most common oral health problem. However, the "Healthy Mouths" report reveals bleeding while brushing and flossing is the most common symptom, experienced by half of all Americans surveyed, followed by cavities and plaque, which impacted only one in three. Dr. Dodes points to something called "plaque biofilm," which most Americans have probably never heard of, as the culprit behind this common problem.

"Germs in the mouth multiply and can become embedded in a thick layer called plaque biofilm. When this happens, these biofilm germs become much more difficult to kill by simply brushing and flossing, and are more likely to cause problems such as bad breath and more seriously, gingivitis. Left untreated, gingivitis can increase the potential for advanced gum disease, which emerging science suggests could be linked with greater health problems." **

As for preventative dental visits, those surveyed named a lack of dental insurance (44 percent) and money (41 percent) as barriers to adopting this practice.

The Surprising Impact of Poor Oral Care

Poor oral care can have a much greater impact on a person's health and lifestyle than you might think. Numerous reports have shown a possible link between poor oral health and chronic illness, including diabetes and heart disease. Beyond the potential health risks, many survey respondents said they have missed activities including eating favorite foods (37 percent), smiling in photographs (33 percent), sleep (19 percent), kissing loved ones (15 percent) and work (10 percent) because of dental problems such as tooth pain, cavities and gingivitis. A social stigma may also exist, as those with poor oral health were viewed by nearly 40 percent or more respondents as untidy.

Despite all of this, the upside to good oral care is clear - survey respondents said a healthy smile goes beyond health to signal personality traits, including that you are confident (70 percent) and approachable (56 percent). In fact, nearly all Americans believe in the power of a healthy smile to positively affect social connections (87 percent) and improve moods (87 percent).

Additionally, parents should know that practicing good oral care habits will encourage children to develop healthy oral care routines, as they often model their parents' behaviors.

The Future of America's Smiles Looks Bright

The good news is that a vast majority (95 percent) believe oral care impacts overall wellbeing and is willing to take an extra minute every day to rinse with a therapeutic mouthwash if they knew it could potentially have a positive impact.


*Dr. Dodes is a paid consultant to Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Products Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc.
** Emerging science suggests an association between periodontitis (advanced gum disease) and broader health problems, but a cause and effect relationship has not been established. LISTERINE® Antiseptic is indicated to help prevent or reduce plaque and gingivitis. It is not indicated for periodontitis or other diseases.

Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Products Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc.