Is Flossing Really Necessary?

An October article in Time magazine titled “You Asked: Do I Really Need to Floss” discussed how some experts and research say that flossing is a waste of time. The article alluded to research that doesn’t support the assertion that flossing prevents cavities and gum disease, as well as research that found flossing does not prevent plaque, the stuff that causes cavities. One study also found that some people damaged their gums by yanking down too hard while flossing.

Oh yay, you’re probably thinking … flossing is a waste of time. NOT.

At Enlighten Dental Care, we disagree with the premise of the article and point out the importance of flossing to ALL of our patients. It is apparent to dental professionals which patients do floss and which ones do not. Science is still trying to figure out all of the links between oral health and overall health and has not established a link between flossing and prevention of some of the more morbid conditions such as heart disease and kidney disease. But just because it has yet to be proven doesn’t mean there isn’t a link.

Here are some reasons why we know flossing is important…

  • The modern diet is filled with carbohydrates and sugar, which cause plaque between the teeth. This plaque has to be removed somehow. That’s where flossing comes in.
  • While flossing “may” have some of the hazards alluded to in the article, such as damaging gums, it is very unlikely. Overzealous brushing is much worse for your gums.
  • Flossing does make a difference in overall gum tone — compare it to soft, flabby muscles in sedentary individuals vs. firm muscle tone in active individuals.

Unfortunately, many people do not floss correctly. Don’t snap the floss straight down into your gums. Instead, ease the floss between your teeth and form a C-shape around the tooth to gently slide the floss up and down and scrape away the stuff that builds up between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach.

The ideal approach to good dental hygiene is to thoroughly brush — but not scrub — teeth twice a day, combined with a gentle form of plaque removal, either by flossing or using a hygiene aid such as interproximal brushes. Also, it’s advisable to introduce a rinse such as Listerine and brush your tongue in order to keep your mouth meticulously clean.

Our recommendation at Enlighten Dental Care is “everything in moderation.” Eat healthy, brush twice a day and floss once a day. Simple.

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