Is Flossing Really Worth It?
Dentists everywhere have always encouraged patients to floss once a day even though many people will only floss very occasionally. Unfortunately, some people will only floss just before a dental checkup, or if they have something stuck in between their teeth. If you are one of these people and you don’t really see the point of daily flossing, then you might have felt vindicated by a recent report claiming there’s no real evidence that daily flossing is good for you. For this report, researchers looked at data from 25 studies conducted over the past 10 years and which compared using just a toothbrush and using a toothbrush and dental floss. They concluded that the evidence for daily flossing was weak and that most studies failed to demonstrate that flossing effectively removed plaque. This is completely different from general advice on maintaining good dental health, and since 1979 the government in the United States has recommended flossing. After this report by the Associated Press, the government was forced to concede there was no substantial research supporting the effectiveness of flossing.
Why This Report Should Be Taken with a Grain of Salt
Before you cheer too loudly at this news, it’s worth considering a few very important things about flossing. One problem with this type of evidence is that often people will not floss correctly, merely dragging a piece of dental floss in between their teeth before using a sawing motion to inadequately clean these contact areas.
Certainly, here at Ivory Dental Care, we encourage our patients to floss daily. Our dentist, Dr. Benjamin Hull recommends daily flossing as a preventative strategy, as when flossing is carried out correctly, it is a highly effective and very easy way to clean in between each tooth and will remove the maximum amount of plaque and food debris. Flossing regularly helps to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
A dentist can always tell whether patients floss regularly or not. If you are still not convinced then consider the fact that each tooth has five different surfaces, but only three of these can be thoroughly cleaned with a toothbrush. The two tooth surfaces that cannot be cleaned are the contact areas in between your teeth. Unfortunately, these are the very surfaces where food and plaque can become trapped.
Why Flossing Is Essential for Healthy Teeth and Gums
The whole purpose of flossing is to remove plaque and food particles. Every day, a thin sticky layer called a plaque biofilm gradually builds up over the surfaces of your teeth and which contains bacteria. If it has been quite a while since you brushed your teeth, you can even sometimes feel this sticky and rather unpleasant layer of plaque biofilm simply by running your tongue over your teeth. Unfortunately, a toothbrush cannot get right in between your teeth so if you fail to floss, this layer of plaque will gradually continue to build up in between your teeth, along with leftover particles of food.
Why Flossing Prevents Tooth Decay
The bacteria in plaque use leftover food for energy, enabling them to thrive and as they do so, they produce acid. This is why every time you eat something then your mouth becomes more acidic which has the effect of weakening tooth enamel. Repeated exposure to acid will eventually erode your tooth enamel, causing cavities. As the contact areas in between your teeth are hidden from view, they are particularly prone to tooth decay and often these cavities can only be detected in an x-ray or when they cause a painful toothache or infection. When you floss regularly then your risk of tooth decay is reduced because there will be fewer bacteria and less food for them to thrive on.
Why Flossing Helps Prevent Gum Disease
The bacteria in plaque can also cause infection and inflammation in your gums and gum disease can frequently begin to develop in between your teeth because of a buildup of plaque. Gum disease has the potential to become an extremely serious condition that can cause tooth loss, and which may even affect your general health. Advanced gum disease, called periodontitis, is a condition that has been linked to diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers. When you have gum disease, your gums become red, swollen and tender to touch and are more likely to bleed when you brush or floss. If you notice blood on your toothbrush or that flossing causes your gums to bleed, then it’s worth booking a checkup and hygiene appointment with us here at Ivory Dental Care. One of the problems with gum disease is that it can destroy your gums and other tissues surrounding your teeth, including bone, which is why tooth loss can occur. Bleeding gums also allow bacteria from your mouth to get into your bloodstream, hence the link with your general health.
If you care about your dental health and want to maintain a healthy smile, then it really is essential to floss each day. There is also a saying that you should only floss the teeth that you want to keep! Additionally, the very action of flossing helps to stimulate your gum tissue, promoting better circulation so your gums are healthier and stronger.
How to Floss Correctly
When flossing, break off an 18-inch length of dental floss. This might seem a lot but it’s essential, so you can use a clean piece of floss between each tooth. Otherwise, you are merely moving around plaque bacteria and food debris from one tooth to another. To start, wind most of the dental floss around one of your middle fingers, winding the other end around your other middle finger. This will allow you to ‘wind on’ the dental floss once one contact area is thoroughly clean. Gently slide the dental floss in between your teeth, taking it right down to and just below the gum line. Using your thumb and forefingers to manipulate the floss, hold it in a C shape against the tooth surface, carefully moving the dental floss up and down to remove as much plaque as possible. Repeat with the other tooth surface before cleaning another tooth, ensuring you wind on the floss to use a nice fresh section. If you would like a practical demonstration on how to floss correctly then please ask our hygiene team.
We realize that not everyone can floss very easily, especially if you have problems with dexterity but there are other tools you can try. Interdental brushes can be very easy to use, and a Water Pik is straightforward and effective. Dr. Hull or any of our dental team can discuss other options with you so you can decide which might be most suitable for incorporating into your daily routine. The most important thing is to do something so it’s vital to find a solution that you feel comfortable using every day.
Daily flossing or interdental cleaning is a simple way to protect your dental health and your general health. Approximately 50% of adult Americans will have some form of gum disease during their lifetime, but with the proper oral care, this disease is preventable.