According to a 2003 survey conducted by the ADA, only slightly more than three out of four American adults brush twice a day or after each meal. And even though about half of people say they use dental floss, dentists report that many of them floss incorrectly or inadequately.
"I think the ADA knows this," says Sebastian Ciancio, chairman of the department of periodontics at the University of Buffalo. "In order to improve the health of the public, we should start reminding the public about the products that we know have a positive effect -- those with the Seal of Approval -- and start recommending them."
He says this is particularly important since at any given time, more than 50 percent of the public has gingivitis. And many with gingivitis may not even know they have it.
Antimicrobial mouth rises may also help kill off the plaque-causing bacteria that brushing and flossing miss.
"The bacteria that we have on our teeth comprises only 25 percent of the bacteria that lives in our mouths," Ciancio says, noting that bacteria can reside on unbrushed areas such as the tongue, cheeks and tonsils. "That's an area where people don't brush, and that's an area where mouthwashes will get."
Still, Howell says, rinsing with antimicrobial mouthwash should be viewed strictly as a complement to brushing and flossing -- never as a substitute.
"This is not something that is going to replace brushing and flossing," she says.
Those hoping to boost their dental health can find the ADA Seal of Approval on other products in their local pharmacies too. To date, two antimicrobial toothpaste lines carry the ADA Seal of Approval: Colgate Total and Crest Pro Health. Both these products contain ingredients that have been shown to kill the bacteria that cause gingivitis.
Whall says the host of new antimicrobial products deserving of the seal could spark tooth-healthy trends amongst the general public.
"I think it is a trend," he says. "If we can add to the products to help dental health, we're happy about that."
But Whall adds that people should still adhere to current ADA recommendations, which along with a balanced diet and regular dentist visits, include the time-honored routines of brushing and flossing.
"Everyone should still be brushing and flossing effectively every day," he says. "This is still probably the best thing they can do."
For a list of products bearing the ADA seal and descriptions of the various types of oral hygiene products available, visit http://www.ada.org/goto/seal.