Flossing – Why You Should

Posted on Apr 15, 2018 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

If you could do something that required two minutes or less a day, knowing it could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year, you’d do it – right? Then, why is daily flossing such a dilemma for so many people?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), only 20 percent of American adults floss on a daily basis. (https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2014-archive/october/survey-finds-shortcomings-in-oral-health-habits)

As a periodontal specialist with advanced training in the treatment of gum disease, I know the destructive nature of infectious oral bacteria. When an overload of bacteria accumulate in the mouth, cavities form and the gums become food for bacteria.

While many people assume that brushing twice a day is sufficient for maintaining good oral health, brushing often fails to remove food particles that are caught between teeth. These particles begin to rot rather quickly, leaving even more sustenance for bacterial growth and reproduction.

When oral bacteria amass past the point that is manageable by the immune system, the bacteria become infectious. This causes inflammation in the gum tissues, which can eventually lead to the formation of periodontal (gum) disease.

So, if the 1-2 minutes a day required for the act of flossing teeth would prevent cavities and gum disease, then why don’t more people do it? Well, first of all, flossing is not something anyone particularly enjoys. But, like some other basic hygiene tasks, it’s well worth the time and energy – perhaps more than you realize.

The inflammatory effects of the oral bacteria of gum disease don’t just remain in the mouth. Through tears in diseased gum tissues, they are able to enter the bloodstream. As the bacteria travel throughout the body, their toxic nature can trigger inflammatory effects elsewhere.

It is this action that has been the focus of a numerous amount of research over the years. Studies have found that oral bacteria of gum disease are linked to serious health problems. These include heart disease, stroke, preterm babies, arthritis, diabetes, some cancers, Alzheimers disease, erectile dysfunction (ED) and impotency. As research continues, more serious, and even deadly, connections are being made.

Oral bacteria accumulation creates a sticky film in the mouth that is known as plaque. When not removed thoroughly and frequently, plaque can form cement-hard bacteria colonies that attach to teeth. This hardened form of bacteria is known as tartar (or calculus) and, once formed, can no longer be brushed or flossed away.

They key is to keep oral bacteria levels to a minimum, which is why brushing and flossing are an important part of your daily care routine. Yet, as a dental specialist, I understand why it is difficult for some people to develop the habit of daily flossing.

For some, the tight floss around fingers is uncomfortable. For others who have large fingers or problems with manual dexterity, the act of flossing is rather challenging. Yet, for those who floss on a daily basis, it becomes a simple maneuver that is as simple as brushing teeth.

I’ve carefully followed studies that claim flossing provides little benefit. These studies have been under debate within the dental profession due to what some deem as flawed protocols. For example, study participants not being followed long enough to determine true effectiveness or the failure to monitor proper flossing techniques.

What is not, and has never been, debatable, however, is how the action helps to keep oral bacteria levels to a minimum.

As a periodontist, I have a unique view of what the mouth deals with on a day to day basis. If you flossed your teeth, for example, and put the floss under a microscope, you’d likely floss several times a day! Oral bacteria are menacing critters that are destructive in nature – not a pretty sight.

Relook at the advantages you can enjoy as a result of this minutes-per-day action and commit to performing it for a minimum of 2 weeks. You may want to begin by watching a brief video by Colgate on proper flossing techniques at: https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/basics/brushing-and-flossing/how-to-floss

Our hygienists are also available to assist you personally. They will be happy to help you find a technique that is comfortable and effective. Call 828-274-9440 to begin by scheduling an examination appointment.

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