Do I Really Need to Floss?

DF2 Uncategorized

Since the summer, many
patients have been asking me if they really need to floss.  No doubt encouraged by the many articles
suggesting that flossing may not be necessary, I instantly broke the hearts of
men and women when I highly encouraged my patients continue flossing.  I’m not a researcher, but I can tell you
that, anecdotally, I can usually tell when my patients don’t floss or when they’ve
been lax about it.  My coworkers have
memorized what I tell patients about flossing: it’s like weight lifting; it
hurts at first, but the more you do it, the stronger your gums get.  They know I tell my patients how I myself keep
spools of floss scattered about my apartment to remind me to floss because I
don’t like flossing either.
            But flossing your teeth is important because it helps
remove food and plaque between teeth, where toothbrushes have difficulty
reaching.  Floss also helps remove food
trapped under the gums between these teeth as well.  So flossing, like brushing, helps break up the
colonies of plaque that stick to your teeth. 
Once this gunk, or biofilm, is removed, however, the bacterial colonies
start to repopulate your teeth again, which is why my colleagues and I
recommend you brush and floss your teeth daily. 
The recent mainstream
articles seem to gloss over periodontitis. 
Periodontitis is a disease affecting the gums and bone surrounding
teeth.  Periodontitis can lead to
infections and loss of teeth and its surrounding bone.  While flossing cannot cure periodontitis, it
can help arrest the disease process at gingivitis, which is another reason I
still encourage flossing.
While perhaps most of
these studies are flawed, by design or execution, I want to make clear that the
studies have not proven that flossing is
  (Unless, of course, you are
cutting into your gums with the floss; don’t do that!)
   The Associated
Press’s story
contains links to the original studies if you’re interested
in reading them.
  Also worth mentioning
is that the main review consulted in the AP’s article finds that flossing in
conjunction with brushing is more effective in reducing gingivitis than
brushing alone.
  There has also been a study showing a decrease in
cavities between teeth when professionals
routinely flossed children’s teeth
and administered fluoride, so maybe we
just aren’t flossing effectively at home.