Tooth decay is an epidemic in Australia and more than 30 per cent of people only brush their teeth once a day, according to the Australian Dental Association.
It was the country's most common health problem, which cost the economy $2 billion a year, but it was also one of the most preventable, the ADA said as it launched Dental Health Week today.
Although tooth decay was five times more prevalent than asthma in children, 35 per cent of parents said their children only brushed once a day and 60 per cent expected them to have tooth decay.
Spiros Agapitos, owner and principal dentist at Dental Excellence in Mt Hawthorn, said tooth decay was not necessarily inevitable.
"With a healthy, well-balanced diet, good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentists, in many cases tooth decay and other oral diseases can be avoided," Dr Agapitos said.
"It is important to brush twice a day using a soft toothbrush and toothpaste containing fluoride.
"Flossing is just as important as brushing and should be done daily. A non-alcohol-based mouthwash can also be beneficial."
Dr Agapitos said a balanced diet was crucial to maintaining good oral health.
"Foods to avoid include sugary drinks and lollies and foods that stick to teeth such as toffee," he said.
"Acidic foods such as tomatoes and citrus fruits should be eaten with a larger meal to reduce the acid effect."
Dr Agapitos said the fluoride in tap water protected teeth from decay, as did dairy products and high-vitamin, low-acid fruits and vegetables.
The new ADA research also showed that 83 per cent of people said bad oral hygiene was the biggest turn-off on a first date, followed by body odour (5 per cent) and poor fashion sense (4 per cent).
This was no surprise to Dr Agapitos, who said bad breath was a common complaint from his patients.
"In most cases it is easily fixed by a dental clean and the implementation of a good oral hygiene routine," he said. "Having a bright, white smile and fresh breath gives an individual great confidence."