We’ve recently had several patients visit us and say something like, “I heard on the news that the government and the science industry have joined forces to prove that flossing doesn’t actually help. Looks like I don’t have to floss anymore!”
Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard this. The media has promoted this story before...they were wrong in the past and they are wrong today.
What did the Government really say?
Every five years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issues federal dietary guidelines. In 2015, the guidelines contained no recommendation for flossing. Naturally, the media jumped on this and decided it was because the government no longer supported flossing, but the media was wrong.
In August, the Department of Health and Human services issued a statement to clarify things. The federal dietary guidelines are based on research done in the last few years. Since they decided to focus on the effects of sugar intake, no research had been done on flossing. Because of this, they chose not to include it in their guide. This doesn’t negate the importance of flossing, but the media blew the omission out of proportion.
The HHS still considers flossing important for oral hygiene, and their statement made that very clear:
“Flossing is an important oral hygiene practice. Tooth decay and gum disease can develop when plaque is allowed to build up on teeth and along the gum line. Professional cleaning, tooth brushing, and cleaning between teeth (flossing and the use of other tools such as interdental brushes) have been shown to disrupt and remove plaque. At HHS, NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), CDC’s Division of Oral Health and Healthy People 2020 have additional information and resources about efforts to address and improve oral health.”
Not surprisingly, the American Dental Association (ADA) also considers interdental cleaning (such as flossing) an essential part of keeping your mouth healthy.
How does flossing support a healthy mouth?
Did you know that plaque can contain more than 500 bacterial species? While some are good for your mouth, many are bad. When plaque and food debris build up around your teeth, it promotes tooth decay and gum disease. This is because the acid from the bacteria can expedite tooth decay and your immune system can cause inflammation of the gums to fight against the bacteria in the plaque.
Your teeth have multiple surfaces and brushing can’t always reach them all. Flossing, however, enables you to reach those difficult areas and remove plaque, preventing further tooth decay or gingivitis.
What should I use to clean between my teeth?
Both the HHS and the ADA recommend interdental cleaners, but this doesn’t always mean floss. Interdental cleaning simply means cleaning between your teeth. While floss is the most common method, there are several options.
Dental picks, pre-threaded flossers, tiny brushes, water flossers, or wooden plaque removers are all viable options. The best idea is to talk to your dentist about the best interdental cleaner for your teeth.
Depending on the space between your teeth, certain options might work better than others. It’s also important to learn how to properly use your interdental cleaner, otherwise you risk hurting your gums.
How do I floss?
Flossing properly is key to enjoying the benefits of flossing. Mouth Healthy provides a helpful video that explains flossing well:
The keys to effective flossing include:
- Floss once per day.
- Gently guide the floss along the sides of your teeth. You don’t want to be too rough and hurt yourself, but you do need to remove the food and plaque.
- Floss between all your teeth, especially your back molars since they do much of the grunt work in eating.
Additionally, it doesn’t really matter when you floss. Some people floss before they brush and others floss after they brush. The important thing, however, is that you floss.
We can help support a healthy mouth
Flossing isn’t the only thing the HHS and ADA recommend for a healthy mouth. They also recommend you brush twice per day and visit your dentist on a regular basis. If you are located in Alpharetta, Georgia, then contact us today to set up an appointment.
We can help you decide on the best interdental cleaner for you and teach you how to use it. We’ll also take special care to ensure you have a clean and healthy mouth, giving you a smile you can be proud of for years to come. We’re also equipped to treat gum disease and other issues that flossing can help prevent.