October is National Dental Hygiene Month, and in honor of that, let's talk about a hotly debated topic - flossing. The issue of flossing became particularly prominent around this time last year, when much of the mainstream media was proclaiming that flossing was a thing of the past and provided no health benefits. So is it true, or just more "fake news?"
Here's what we know: there isn't strong evidence to support flossing based on current studies, however, stopping there is misleading. Just because the evidence is weak, doesn't mean flossing is ineffective, it just means there aren't any well designed studies as of yet. An exaggerated analogy would be skydiving without a parachute; while most would agree on the likely results, you aren't going to find any scientific studies on the topic.
The next question then, is why is flossing so widely recommended? Most people brush their teeth on a daily basis, but brushing only cleans 3 out of 5 surfaces on the tooth, leaving the surfaces in-between teeth full of plaque and bacteria. Because of this, the most common areas I see suffering from tooth decay and gum disease are between the teeth, where the toothbrush can't reach. This is where floss comes in, to clean those remaining surfaces between the teeth. Floss is dirt cheap, and when performed correctly, it's effective.
There is one major downside to flossing - it's hard to do! Studies do show professional daily flossing drastically reduces decay, but most don't have their own personal hygienist at home. Fortunately today, we have tons of other options. Our office recommends the Waterpik to many of our patients, which is basically a mini pressure washer for the teeth (I have no financial interests in Waterpik). There are also various brushes and picks meant to clean in-between teeth. We have a short instructional video below on these other methods, as well as how to properly floss.
In conclusion, flossing still can be an integral part of a healthy smile, but it's no longer the only way. If you have questions about flossing or daily dental hygiene, please give our office a call today. We're always happy to help people on the pathway to good oral health.