Floss or not to flossLast updated : December 10, 2016
Posted by: Michelle Carter & Lyndsay Burke
If you follow any social media site I’m sure you’ve come across the recent “controversy” over flossing. Within the past week I have been asked numerous times my thoughts on this subject. I’d love to share, but first a little background.The controversy began when the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services dropped the recommendation for daily flossing from their Dietary Guidelines. Their reason for dropping the recommendation stems from the fact that there has not been enough studies conducted on the benefits of flossing to actually warrant the DAHHS to include flossing as an endorsed recommendation from them. This fact is true- if you dig into proper scientific and peer reviewed studies you won’t find much information. But this does not in turn mean that flossing is not beneficial to your health!Here are some facts- which HAVE been studied and peer reviewed regarding the build-up of bacterial plaque and its effect on your oral health.When we eat, tiny bits of our food accumulate between our teeth.
Everyone has natural bacteria that have made our mouths their home. This bacteria metabolizes those tiny bits of food to produce plaque and acid. Over time, plaque forms a nice gunky layer over your teeth (about 12 hours for a nice full layer). This layer is removed by mechanical processes- tooth brushing. Tooth brushing is FANTASTIC for removing dental plaque. From the exposed surfaces of your teeth, that is. But what you’re missing with the tooth brush is critical- the surfaces of each tooth that touch each other. These surfaces of your teeth cover up to 40% of the total surface area of your teeth. This means that tooth brushing only cleans up to 60% of the total surfaces of your teeth! This is where flossing comes into play. At home, plaque simply cannot be removed from these surfaces by any other means. The mechanical action of rubbing the floss against the side of the tooth, and down slightly below the gum line, removes the plaque build-up in these hard to reach spaces.
What is also a widely studied and accepted as fact are the complications that come from having bacterial plaque buildup on your teeth- Periodontal Disease and Dental Decay.Periodontitis, to put very briefly, is a diseased state of oral health that has resulted in destruction of the bone and connective tissues that support your teeth. If untreated, Periodontitis almost always leads to tooth loss. And in most of my clinical experience, Periodontitis begins in the spaces between two teeth- the areas dental professionals recommend to floss!Dental Caries- or “cavities” are areas of the tooth that have literally begun to decay. This happens as the bacteria we spoke about earlier metabolizes those tiny bits of food. During this process, the pH of your mouth becomes acidic. The acid makes the enamel of your teeth softer, and alas, you end up with a cavity that needs to be filled. And one of the top areas we find dental decay in a clinical setting? You guessed it- in the tight areas between two teeth.So now that I have reviewed the facts, this brings me back to my personal thoughts on daily flossing.
When my patients ask me my opinion on flossing my answer always has been, and still remains to be, “YES”! Patients often joke with me and assume that I am saying that because my job is to be a “floss boss,” or that I am biased because my profession. I am not biased or embellishing on a dental home care regimen. I simply am sticking to the facts.And, if facts aren’t enough for you, I have plenty of anecdotal evidence from my career as a Dental Hygienist. I have seen countless patients have to undergo costly dental work to address cases of Periodontal Disease and Dental Decay. If I’m being honest, I can tell you this- an overwhelming majority of these patients are NOT flossing regularly. However, those patients that walk out of their six month check up with a thumbs up? You guessed it- twice daily flossers. And they only have to see me twice a year!So in conclusion, let me just say this: Yes, I may have been taught in school to preach to my patients to “floss, floss, and floss,”- but I continue to do this in my professional career because I have seen first-hand the benefits of daily flossing. You can visit Reading Dentist for more information.
About the Blogger:
Michelle Carter, RDH
Michelle Carter is a graduate of University of New England, Portland Maine with a Bachelor Degree in Dental Hygiene. Michelle also received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Colby Sawyer College. Today Michelle provides outstanding dental care to her patients here at Reading Dental Associates!
Lyndsay Burke is a graduate of Middlesex Community College in Lowell, Massachusetts with an Associate Degree in Dental Hygiene. Lyndsay currently supports Reading Dental Associates as our chief Financial Coordinator.