With all the publicity that has come up this week, one would think humans don’t need to floss? Right? That’s what the New York Times article states (kind of). I have not done any formal studies rating the effectiveness of flossing, except looking inside mouths for 14 years.
One of the reasons flossing has been dropped from the dietary guidelines of Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services is because there is no hard evidence from research studies. This is because enough participants over a long enough period time have never been able to be examined.
Things I know to be true:
My patients that floss categorically have significantly less dental problems. Less cavities. Less bleeding. Less gingivitis. Less periodontal disease. These are the patients that have always flossed, not ones that were told to after being diagnosed with periodontal disease. The gingiva of patients that start flossing later in life or after a periodontal diagnosis becomes much healthier.
I am going to list a couple things that flossing physically does and one that I believe it mentally does. Obviously, the act of flossing dislodges anything that may be caught between your teeth. If debris is allowed to stay there, it will inherently cause decay. It also fights halitosis (bad breath).
Imagine getting into your car after food has been sitting in there on a hot summer day – that is exactly what is going on in your mouth with left over debris.
The act of flossing physically stimulates your gingival tissue, which increases the blood flow. Increased blood flow to the tissue makes it much healthier, firmer and tighter to your teeth. The healthier ginival tissue helps protect the teeth with a better physical barrier. Bacteria also enters the systemic blood stream through irritated, loose or bleeding gingival tissue. Recently, there has been much made of the bacterial invasion through gingival tissue and systemic problems, such as inflammation in other areas of the body such as the heart.
Mentally I believe flossing causes people to pay more attention overall to their oral health habits. Patients that tend to floss everyday, seem to brush better and longer than patients that do not floss everyday.
The recent publishing of the lack of need to floss has been over exaggerated and over publicized. Flossing is a very important component to oral and systemic health. I will continue to tell my patients to floss because of the multiple benefits. My thought is the people who floss and care about their oral and systemic health will continue to floss. The majority of the people who did not floss before probably will not start referencing this article to justify their position. My hope is that after reading this, some people that do not floss, will realize that it is important and will start. Either way this public debate puts the issue in front of way more people than have previously been talking about it, and this is ultimately a good thing.
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