Prior research has rarely examined the impact of ADA-recommended preventive practices on tooth retention. We hypothesized that better oral hygiene leads to increased tooth retention. We examined the association of cross-sectional and long-term assessments of preventive practices, as well as various combinations of hygiene practices, with tooth retention. Among 736 male participants in the VA Dental Longitudinal Study, we utilized cross-sectional and longitudinal self-reports of toothbrushing, dental floss use, annual prophylaxis, and combinations of such behaviors, and examined their association with clinically assessed numbers of teeth. Baseline and long-term hygiene behaviors (except brushing) were associated with an increased baseline number of teeth and decreased subsequent tooth loss. Use of multiple hygiene behaviors was associated with greater tooth retention, cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Adherence to ADA recommendations for preventive care leads to better oral health, and consistently practicing preventive behaviors over the long term confers greater benefits than doing so over the short term.
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