In the news recently there has been a nasty rumor going around stating that flossing is a waste of time. As a wellness dentist in Jacksonville, Florida these reports are worrisome. While the US Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services is completely correct in removing flossing from their dietary guidelines of 2016, to say that flossing is not beneficial to dental health and overall well-being is quite a leap. We practice wellness dentistry and understand that the mouth is the gateway to the entire body.
What Exactly Happened?
This year when the United States Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services published the updated dietary guidelines the act of flossing had been dropped from their recommendations. Over the decades that dentists and doctors have encouraged their patients to floss there was not a single randomized study performed to prove its effectiveness in preventing cavities and periodontal disease. Because there is no scientific evidence that flossing prevents tooth decay and periodontal disease, the department could not add it into the updated guidelines as they are based on scientific research. The omission from the current guidelines caused news publications around the country to jump to the conclusion that flossing has been a waste of time and money all these years. We know as wellness dentists that is just not true.
How Can There Be No Research on Flossing?
This is a question that many dentists have been asking in the wake of this news. Some believe that it may be t that getting people to floss on a regular basis is very difficult and as such finding a randomized study that would meet the qualifications of the of the USDAHHS has been impossible for many years. However, a study where professionals flossed the teeth of school children Monday through Friday did show a 40% reduction in cavities. While this is only one study, it is important to note the professional dental hygienists who floss correctly were able to decrease cavity risk in children significantly. Perhaps it is just more important that you floss correctly.
Flossing, Tooth Decay, and Periodontal Disease
For many years dentists have been telling their patients that flossing is one of the best things they can do to prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease. This is because flossing is a unique way to remove all of the bacteria from in between the teeth and the gum line. Brushing your teeth is extremely important however, it cannot reach the tight areas that floss is able to. We all know that cavities are caused by bacteria that is left on the teeth to turn into plaque. This creates an acidic environment that eats through the enamel of the teeth. If bacteria can be removed from the hard-to-reach areas of the teeth by floss there, logically, would be a lesser chance of it turning into plaque and finally a cavity.
The same thought process goes for periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a severe condition that causes bone and tooth loss amongst other symptoms. It has been linked to many chronic disorders such as cardiovascular disease and even Alzheimer’s. However, periodontal disease does not strike a patient overnight. It takes between five and 20 years to develop. Developing periodontal disease is similar to a cavity. It starts with bacteria and plaque remaining on the gums. First it causes gum inflammation that is characterized by puffy and bleeding gums. Gum inflammation if not treated can lead to gingivitis. Chronic gum inflammation, a.k.a. gingivitis, can easily become periodontal disease. One of the best ways and only ways to entirely remove bacteria from the gum line is to floss correctly. Removing the bacteria that can cause inflammation is the first step in preventing more severe condition later on down the road. While researchers cannot say definitively that flossing prevents periodontal disease, we can say that it removes the bacteria that causes inflammation. And, that is the first step in understanding how keeping your mouth healthy can keep your entire body healthy as well.
A Reminder on Flossing Correctly
While there is no study to definitively show that flossing prevent cavities and periodontal disease, we can see the effects of flossing in our patients every day. One of the most important things is to make sure that you are flossing correctly. This may take a little more time, but the effort is well worth it. When you take your length of floss make sure that you take it up to the root of the tooth to really hug the curve. This gets under the gum line and removes any bacteria that may be there. Do this to every side of every tooth everyday and you will notice a reduction in gum inflammation and bleeding. If you have any questions about how to best floss your teeth do not hesitate to ask us today. During your appointment we can help you understand the importance of flossing correctly and give you a few pointers to take home.