Survey explores Americans' awareness of, and value placed on, oral health

May 30, 2008
Oral Health America launched National Smile Month on May 18.

Oral health is a top health priority for 64 percent of adults in the United States right now, but even more adults (82 percent) are unaware of the role that infectious bacteria can play in tooth decay, or cavities, according to a new public opinion survey from Oral Health America and Philips Sonicare.

The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive®, is part of the first-ever U.S. National Smile Month from May 18 to June 17. National Smile Month aims to raise awareness of the importance of good oral health habits, including brushing, healthy food choices, and regular dental visits. The National Smile Month "Brush for Health!" theme focuses on raising public awareness about the connection between oral care and overall health.

"The survey results make it clear that Americans know the benefits of dental care, but lack a greater understanding of the disease processes that causes tooth decay," says Robert Klaus, President and CEO of Oral Health America. "This means that there are still significant opportunities to educate the public about this common, infectious disease."

Philips Sonicare partnered with OHA to conduct a public survey opinion survey to revela the state of oral health in America. Key survey findings include:

• Many dental professionals are discussing the impact of oral health on overall health with their patients. Nearly half (49 percent) of U.S. adults say that their dental professional asked about their overall health at their last dental appointment.

• Yet, Americans are still in the dark when it comes to certain aspects of oral health. For example, 82 percent of adults are unaware of the role that infectious bacteria can play in tooth decay, or cavities.

• Many Americans are taking control of their oral health by changing their brush or brush head regularly and brushing for the recommended two minutes. However, fibbing about brushing and flossing habits is fairly common.

The campaign promotes key oral health messages, and encourages participation at any level by dental practices, clinics, schools, medical practices, community centers, and others who would like to raise the profile of oral health.

Take a look at the National Smile Month Handbook and web site,, which provide press release templates and ideas for engaging local media.

National Smile Month is running simultaneously in the United States and United Kingdom, thanks to a new partnership with the British Dental Health Foundation, who started the campaign 32 years ago. The governors of New Jersey and Connecticut have issued proclamations declaring May 18-June 17 as National Smile Month.