A recent article was published over the summer which has led to several questions from our patients about the value of flossing. It seems as if many people are eager to hear that they no longer need to make time for this worthwhile daily “chore”. The interesting and perhaps misleading message behind that article was that no study has been conducted that proves the value of flossing. Note, it does not report that flossing is not important… only that no study has been conducted to prove it.
Having practiced dentistry and cared for patients for almost 20 years now, it is quite evident to us that flossing needs to be part of your oral hygiene routine. We don’t necessarily need a study to see the positive effects of flossing, or conversely to see the negative effects of skipping it.
As part of our dental evaluation, we conduct a caries risk assessment of our patients to determine their risks for dental decay, and we evaluate the gums for risk factors which could lead to periodontal disease. This includes a conversation about a patient’s home care routine, frequency, and diet, and an evaluation for plaque buildup, active decay, dry mouth, swollen gums, redness, and bleeding.
We know that to avoid cavities, it’s important to keep all surfaces of every tooth clean… even the parts that the tooth brush cannot reach. These “interproximal” areas where adjacent teeth touch are most effectively cleaned using dental floss as these areas are too tight for a toothbrush to clean. We also know that keeping the in-between parts of our teeth clean is important for preventing gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums.
Our non-flossers often display dental decay in these areas and bleeding gums which, although may be painless initially, will develop into large painful cavities and tooth loss.
Your oral hygiene routine should consist of brushing your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes at a time, and flossing your teeth at least once daily. Flossing with floss gently wrapped around your fingers is more effective than using a floss fork, but for patients who struggle with manual dexterity, there are other alternatives like GUM SoftPicks which can be quite effective. The floss too should be gently worked between your teeth in a “shoe-shining” fashion to clean the convex tooth surfaces rather than quickly popping the floss quickly up and down from tooth to tooth.
If flossing has not been part of your daily routine, your gums may bleed initially. If done consistently for about two weeks, improvement in you gingival health should be noticed while you are reducing your risk for dental decay. Despite the initial confusion about the value of flossing by that article, we have welcomed the opportunities to engage with our patients about this important step in their oral hygiene, and to remind them how much better it is to prevent a cavity than it is to restore it.
If you have questions about this article, or if you are looking for a dentist in Winter Park, Florida, please call us at (407)644-2700 or visit our website.