Despite New Dietary Guidelines, Flossing Still Healthy
Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services released its newest dietary guidelines for American citizens, and quietly dropped its mentions of flossing. The Associated Press reported that this was due to a lack of research into the effectiveness of regular flossing, which is required for any DHHS recommendation. According to the American Association of Periodontology (a professional association of dentists who specialize in gum disease and treatment), there has not been researched with enough patients over a long enough period of time to justify the claims of the DHHS.
While this might come as a shock to those who have diligently brushed and flossed their teeth since childhood, there is still good news. There have been numerous studies that show a positive relation between dental health and brushing with fluoride toothpaste, so make sure to brush your teeth twice a day unless you fancy looking like a pirate!
We at Sninski & Schmitt understand how it could be tempting to stop flossing entirely due to this news, but there are still reasons why flossing is a good idea. We are confident that longer-term studies will prove the utility of flossing, but until those studies occur there are still good reasons to floss. Some of these include the prevention of gingivitis & periodontal diseases.
What Are Gingivitis & Periodontal Disease?
The Mayo Clinic defines Gingivitis as a mild and relatively common form of gum disease that causes swelling, redness, and irritation in the gums. In fact, gingivitis can be so mild that many people never realize that they have it. This, however, does not mean that gingivitis is not a threat. If left untreated, even mild gingivitis can evolve into a full-blown periodontal disease. This is because gingivitis is itself a minor form of periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. Not only can periodontal disease cause tooth loss, but can also cause heart attacks or strokes. This is because the bacteria that can cause periodontal disease can get into the bloodstream and cause the same inflammation in the heart.
The good news is that routine flossing and brushing can prevent periodontal disease and gingivitis. Many people, however, don’t know how to correctly floss their teeth. Flossing isn’t nearly as effective if it is not good flossing.
What Is the Correct Way to Floss?
Although the Department of Health and Human Services was not able to find a statistically significant relationship between flossing and tooth health, this is not the whole story. It is important to note that the current studies on the subject have either not had a long enough or wide enough base, and it is difficult for studies to correct for bad flossing. Most of us are not particularly good at flossing, seeing it as either something you do just to make your dentist happy or an unnecessary and even painful addition to brushing. This pain is often because we do not floss enough, so our gums bleed those few times the week before we head to the dentist’s office when we finally do floss. Due to these awkward cycles and inefficient flossing styles, our flossing does not really do much to help our dental health.
While there is not enough of a scholarly basis for the DHHS to include flossing in its recommendations for dietary health, there are numerous studies that have proved the healthiness of flossing on a smaller level. One of the most promising is a study that showed that children who had their teeth flossed by professionals for two years reduced their risk of cavities by 40%. While one study is far from the scientific consensus necessary for the DHHS, it does demonstrate that it is not flossing itself but how people do it that makes the difference.
The correct way to floss is to pinch the floss between your thumb and index finger, as you move back and forth with a C shape in between the teeth, making sure to get under the gum line. Getting under the gum line is where most people fail in their own flossing, as they tend to pull too hard and hurt the delicate flesh of the gum line. Especially if you aren’t used to flossing, this is painful and bloody, as it hurts already-inflamed gums. This pain causes people to pointedly avoid flossing in the future, merely exacerbating the issue of inflamed gums.
Our Recommendation? Don’t Stop Flossing!
We at Sninski & Schmitt are sure that many people saw the news about flossing and immediately thought “Thank goodness! I hated flossing, and now I don’t have to do it anymore!” The good news is that if you follow our directions above, flossing won’t hurt anymore, and you will have healthier teeth. The bad news is that there is some evidence that unless you are flossing correctly, you aren’t doing anything to actually help your dental health.
At Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry, we highly recommend you keep flossing, but you must take care to floss correctly, lest it is wasted effort. If you would like instruction on how to correctly floss your teeth to maintain your smile, schedule an appointment with one of our top-quality dentists!