What most Americans get wrong about dental health

Time for another edition of True Confessions!

When was the last time you flossed? Don't worry; I'm not going to judge.

But if your answer wasn't "this morning" or "last night," then you might have a problem.

Everyone should floss after meals or -- at the very least -- once each day, ideally when you brush your teeth before you go to bed.

But new research finds that only 30 percent of us floss daily.

The rest floss only occasionally... and nearly a third of Americans don't floss at all.

Flossing is, of course, the best way to protect your teeth -- and if you don't floss, you risk cavities and gum disease when you're younger, and much more painful and permanent problems as you get older, including tooth loss.

But you also risk more than that.

There are clear links between the health of your teeth and gums and the rest of your body.

The same bacteria that cause gum disease have been found in other parts of the body, where they can also do damage.

One study found these bacteria in the brains of people with dementia, and another study I shared with you earlier this year found a link between those germs and pancreatic cancer.

Gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss have also been linked to heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and more -- which is why one recent study found a link between tooth loss and major cardiovascular events, including death.

Those are risks you just don't have to face -- because you can take care of this in just minutes per day... and even if you've had years of poor dental hygiene, it's not too later to turn over a new leaf and get started.

So let me give you three pieces of advice.

  1. Brush after meals and floss daily. I'd like to say this is obvious, but the new study shows it's not obvious enough. Be sure to use fluoride-free toothpaste, and fluoride- and alcohol-free dental rinses. And if you haven't flossed regularly, or if your gums bleed when you do, make an appointment with a dentist or periodontal specialist for a "deep cleaning" of your gums, which will remove disease-causing bacteria.
  2. Avoid sugars. Sugars feed the bacteria that eat away at teeth and rot gums.
  3. Take heart-friendly supplements. They can also protect your teeth! The omega-3 fatty acid DHA can help you fight off tooth decay and gum disease, while CoQ10 can protect against gingivitis.