It has been hard to not get excited over the headlines in the last few weeks; “Flossing is a complete waste of time.” “Dentists forgot to study flossing for a century, recommended it anyway”. After all, no one likes to floss, and believe it or not we don’t like nagging our patients to do it either! Before we all get to excited however, we would urge you to look at the facts and employ a little common sense.
First of all, what is the purpose of flossing? When something is in our bodies that doesn’t belong, we have mechanisms to remove it. Think about a splinter in your finger. It’s not supposed to be there, so your finger gets red, swollen and irritated as our bodies try to push it out and break it down. Food, plaque and calculus aren’t supposed to be on our teeth, so our bodies send inflammatory cells to the gums to help break it down. Instead it makes our gums red, bleed easily, smell bad and can eventually lead to periodontal (gum) disease. Brushing doesn’t clean well in between the teeth. When floss is used correctly, it does.
Key word, when floss is used correctly. That word, correctly, is why we don’t have research to support flossing. Think about how expensive and impractical it would be to follow everyone home at night to make sure they were using proper flossing techniques. And then you have to tell a second group of people to not floss, and make sure that when they have a piece of meat stuck between their teeth that they just leave it there. Because after all, promoting gum health or not, can you imagine not having floss when you get a pesky popcorn kernel stuck in your gums?
Aside from string floss, a water flosser is a great option to maintain healthy gums. There are studies that show that water flossing is effective at plaque removal. This is because it’s less technique sensitive compared to traditional flossing, and so you don’t have to worry about whether or not people are doing it correctly. We recommend water flossers to people who lack proper flossing technique.
We challenge you to brush your teeth and then floss correctly or use a water flosser. If you don’t get anything out from in between your teeth (especially since you may have taken the last few weeks off of flossing in light of recent news) then by all means stop flossing. But we are pretty certain you will be able to get at least a little morsel of food out. So please, continue to floss, or buy a water flosser. We have seen enough bad breath, red and bleeding gums and gum disease in our patients who don’t floss, and have seen the results when people floss correctly. The difference between the two encourages us to continue to nag our patients about flossing because we believe it makes a huge difference.
Here’s a video in which our hygienist Alton demonstrates proper flossing technique:
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