To floss, or not to floss? Is it really a question?

Have you heard the news? According to a prominent dental source (and several media outlets subsequently), the benefits of flossing may have been grossly exaggerated, and apparently it isn’t as necessary as some believe.  A review in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology concluded that “despite being widely advocated, it is noteworthy that the majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal and in reducing gingival (gum) inflammation.” But before you decide to toss your floss, consider the opposing view.

Dr. Susan Maples, a leading industry expert and author of Blabber Mouth! 77 Secrets Only Your Mouth Can Tell You To Live a Healthier, Happier, Sexier Life, argues that flossing is a critical piece of a good dental hygiene routine. She recently told the Times Union that “gum disease is among the leading causes of inflammation in the body. Given the links between inflammation and serious systemic diseases, flossing may be one of the best things you can do not just for your oral health but for your overall health too.” And when you consider how simple flossing is, why wouldn’t you take the minimal time to do it? If there’s even the slightest possibility that it could improve your health, isn’t it worth it?

Unfortunately, many see flossing as an optional part of their dental hygiene routine, and therefore don’t do it on a regular basis. If you haven’t flossed in awhile, here are a few suggestions to keep in mind:

  • There are several different types of floss available, and it really doesn’t matter which one you choose. Nylon, Teflon, woven, waxed, flavored, non-flavored; they’re all effective at removing food and plaque from between your teeth. Find one that you like, and use it at least once a day.
  • A good flossing technique will have you forming a “C” shape with the floss around every tooth. Be sure to reach the surface below the gum line.
  • If flossing is difficult because of deep gum pockets, braces, bridges or implants, consider a water jet or pik.
  • Be cautious when using a mouth rinse. Some “antimicrobial” rinses that claim to reduce gingivitis or plaque, are dissolved in alcohol (27% ethanol). Studies have shown that long-term swishing of alcohol may increase your chances of oral cancer.

This is not the first time that flossing has come under fire, and it probably won’t be the last. Whether or not flossing is as effective at removing plaque as some experts claim doesn’t really matter. It improves your oral and overall health, and no one can argue with that benefit.

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