By now you have probably seen the report about flossing. Newspapers, the internet, radio and television are loving the story that flossing might not be worth it. The Associated Press investigated the scientific evidence of flossing and report that their studies show weak evidence to support the claim.
But… before you throw out the floss, please consider this: We all know someone who never flosses and doesn’t have any cavities. And on the flip side, you must have a friend that spends 10 minutes on their oral hygiene and is constantly having issues with their teeth. The question is why are their differences and why should I really floss?
Plaque contributes to cavities. We are all individuals and some people are at greater risk for cavities. Combined with risk factors like a high sugar or acid diet, having braces or crowns that collect plaque, medicines that may dry out the mouth, deep tooth anatomy, medical conditions like acid reflux, and our genetic predisposition, the acid from plaque leads to cavities. If you have had cavities in the past, we know you have the bacteria that causes decay and that you are susceptible to more decay. If you don’t floss, you are not cleaning at least 40% of a tooth – that’s a lot of tooth to avoid, especially if you are at high risk for cavities. Why take a chance that you might get more cavities?
Plaque contributes to gum disease. Individuality is also at play here. We know that plaque in conjunction with risk factors such as smoking, chewing tobacco, diabetes, weight, genetic predisposition and pregnancy, can increase a person’s chance of developing gum disease. So if plaque leads to inflammation of the gums, which leads to gum disease and potential tooth loss, doesn’t it make sense that thorough plaque removal would be beneficial?
Maybe it isn’t all about teeth. There is significant evidence that chronic inflammation in the mouth can contribute to inflammation in other parts of the body. Dr. Marc Penn, past medical director of the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Cleveland Clinic states, “Don’t ever forget to look at periodontal disease as an important source of inflammation in reference to cardiovascular disease.” Oral inflammation causes and increases inflammatory disease, such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, sleep apnea, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, pneumonia, and preterm births.
If you decide not to floss, consider brushing and then flossing once to see what is on the floss. Then ask yourself why, if it’s okay to try to brush away bacteria and food that’s hiding in a crevice, why it’s alright to leave that bacteria behind to cause cavities, lead to gum disease or contribute to chronic inflammation?