Flossing is one of those things that most people would like to do, but simply can’t form a habit around it. Here’s the thing: Flossing might be useless.
Well, that’s a bummer. Let me explain.
When researching this topic, the information was quite ambiguous. While some dentists say flossing is essential, others say it’s not important at all. While some studies suggest it’s essential, other studies say that it’s a waste of time.
Some scientists even say that flossing prevents heart disease. The theory behind this is rather simple. Your mouth is full of bacteria, good and bad ones while your gums are full of blood vessels.
As soon as your gums are somehow disrupted, there is a chance that the bacteria in your mouth land in your bloodstream and trigger inflammation anywhere in the body.
Inflammation is one of the reasons for damage to the blood vessels, i.e. those of the heart. Heart disease might be a possible consequence.
Knowledge base: Atherosclerosis is a ‘disease’ where your blood arteries harden. Arteries or those blood vessels that lead away from the heart. If your arteries are hardened or full of plaque, which is basically waste products in your vessels, it gets harder for the heart to pump blood through your body. The more clogged your arteries are, the higher your risk for a heart attack or a stroke.
Some studies suggest that there might be a relationship since the presence of periodontal disease usually goes with a higher risk for heart disease, but it is not clear if there is any causal relationship.
The thing you need to do is to reduce the bacteria in your mouth and keep your gums healthy. One thing you hopefully do regularly is brushing your teeth.
The other thing in question is flossing. Does flossing really reduce the bacteria in your mouth? This is also important even if there was no connection between your gums and heart disease because your teeth will also benefit from the reduced bacterial activity.
As already mentioned above the information on flossing is quite ambiguous, but first let me give you some numbers.
Although dentists promote flossing since over 20 years, only 5% of the population actually do it. Another interesting number is that some dentists and researchers say that not cleaning between your teeth is like you’d only clean 60% of your teeth at all.
Another reason why studies may show that flossing has no positive effect is that people simply do it wrong. This theory is assisted by one study where schoolchildren had their teeth flossed by a professional, 5 days a week for two years and it had a positive outcome.
There is also a difference in preventing tooth decay and gum disease.
Knowledge-base: Tooth decay is caused by the acid, bacteria produce when ‘digesting’ sugar. Gum disease, on the other hand, is caused by plaque, which is a film of bacteria on your teeth that can cause your gums to bleed and recede if not removed frequently.
Some dentists recommend interdental brushes, as they are easier to use and as a consequence removed bacteria more effectively.
Flossing might be helpful but only when done the right way. It’s hard to explain, so the best way is if your dentist shows you how it’s done.
The best description I found was this: ‘To remove plaque, you need to hook the floss like a C around the tooth, so it hooks out the plaque from between the contact points of the teeth.’
One thing flossing is definitely good for is getting food out between your teeth. Ask your dentist to show you how to properly floss. It’ll only take a few minutes each day and it might make your teeth healthier in the long run which is a very good investment.