If you’ve been on social media at all in the last week, you’ve probably seen a new report that suggests that flossing may not be medically necessary. According to the report published by the Associated Press, flossing, a dental hygiene mainstay since the early 20th century, has little scientific evidence of having health benefits. They note the lack of established scientific research behind the practice of flossing and its relation to incidences of gingivitis, plaque build-up and tooth decay. This has led many people to celebrate with relief: No more pressure to floss, right? Not so fast.
A Case for Flossing
While we agree that there should be independent long-term studies to assess the effectiveness of flossing, we also think that people should consider on the practice’s intention–removing plaque from tight spaces toothbrushes can’t reach–and the knowledge of experienced dental professionals before choosing to stop flossing. The American Dental Association released a statement this week:
“According to the American Dental Association (ADA), interdental cleaners such as floss are an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums. Cleaning between teeth removes plaque that can lead to cavities or gum disease from the areas where a toothbrush can’t reach. Interdental cleaning is proven to help remove debris between teeth that can contribute to plaque buildup.
More than 500 bacterial species can be found in plaque; some are good and some are bad for your mouth. Together with food debris, water and other components, the plaque buildup around the teeth and on the gum line will contribute to disease in teeth and gums.
Whether you use floss or another interdental cleaner is a personal preference, but it’s very important to understand the proper technique for each tool so that it is effective. Patients should talk to their dentists about how to use interdental cleaners to ensure efficacy.”
The important thing to note is the ADA’s emphasis on using floss and other interdental cleaners correctly in order to receive the benefits.
How to Floss Correctly
First things first: choose the floss that’s right for you. Waxed or unwaxed, think ribbon or thin thread, it doesn’t really matter, as long as you follow these basic guidelines when using it.
- Pull out 18-24 inches of floss
- Wrap the ends around your middle fingers and hold both sides with your peace fingers
- Slide the floss between teeth in a “C” shape and move it up and down gently
- Repeat for each tooth
Sidenote: Handheld interdental cleaners are also just as effective as traditional dental floss!
If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. Don’t pay too much attention to the trendy buzz surrounding the questionable merits of flossing. Take it from these dentists: Along with brushing and regular dental visits, flossing is one of the best allies against gum disease and tooth decay!