According to a new public opinion survey sponsored by Oral Health America and Philips Sonicare, oral health is a top health priority for 64% of adults in the United States right now, but 82% of adults are unaware of the role that infectious bacteria can play in tooth decay or cavities. The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive®, was part of 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 survey results make it clear that Americans know the benefits of dental care, but lack a greater understanding of the disease processes that can cause tooth decay," said Robert Klaus, president and CEO of Oral Health America. "This means that there are still significant opportunities to educate the public."

The survey results indicate overall good news about the oral care habits of adults in the United States. On average, adults said they brush their teeth for the recommended 2 minutes. A majority (70%) of adults who brush on a daily basis reported that they replace their manual toothbrush or power toothbrush head once every 3 months or more often.

On a related note, many dental professionals are talking with their patients about the connection between oral health and overall health. Nearly half (49%) of adults said their dental professional asked about overall health at their last dental appointment. In comparison, only 23% said that their primary care physician or internist asked about their oral health at their last appointment.

"By empowering people with information about good oral care habits, we can help prevent painful and costly dental problems, and potentially impact overall health," said Klaus. "During National Smile Month and throughout the year, we encourage people to talk to both their dentist and doctor about the connection between oral and overall health."

National Smile Month comprises a variety of initiatives to raise awareness about the connection between oral health and overall health. A simultaneous campaign is running in the United Kingdom through the British Dental Health Foundation.

More information is available here and here.