A number of articles in the past few years have called the benefits of regular flossing into question. Whether the claim is that dental flossing has no benefit, or that the results aren’t worth it, story after story has probably crossed your screen. So – why floss your teeth?
Flossing is a crucial part of oral health, and not doing so regularly can play a part in significant problems for your smile. If you’ve been second-guessing your dental hygiene regimen lately, put yourself at ease – there are several reasons to keep flossing.
Even a Small Benefit is Worth It
A 2012 study published in Nature is often used as a source by new critics of flossing. The study claims that while flossing does indeed yield reductions in gingivitis and plaque buildup, those reductions are somewhat small.
However, any reduction of bacteria and particulates in the mouth is a good thing. Flossing doesn’t take much effort, and if that effort results in even only a slightly cleaner mouth, it shouldn’t be considered a waste of your time.
Dental Floss Reaches Areas Toothbrushes Can’t
Each tooth has a total of five surfaces, of which a normal toothbrush can only effectively reach three. No matter how well you brush, the sides of teeth where they sit next to one another just can’t effectively be reached by brushing alone.
Along with these surfaces, toothbrush bristles have difficulty reaching far enough below the gumline to deal with bacteria left behind by the food we eat. If unaddressed, this bacteria can lead to bone and gum disease.
Flossing Helps Keep Dental Hygiene Gentle
As many sources will tell you, your daily oral hygiene routine should be a gentle experience for your mouth. If you’re brushing too hard, you can potentially wear away at the enamel of your teeth, and even damage gum tissue.
While a toothbrush may be able to dislodge a lot of particles between teeth, it may take significant pressure to do so. This can lead to bleeding and inflamed gums, which you should seek to avoid.
Using floss to access those hard-to-reach places can often be done much more gently than brushing alone, ensuring your cleaning regimen remains a gentle experience.
Flossing may be More Important as you Age
Thanks to fluoride in our drinking water, younger patients may have experienced a lower rate of tooth decay than older Americans. But that doesn’t mean it will always be so.
“Our body chemistry does change as we get older,” Dr. Matthew Messina, a spokesman for the American Dental Association, tells the New York Daily News. “So some people might have a very high host-resistance (against bacteria) when they’re young, but they are going to find that is not the case as they get older.”
If It’s Not Helping, You May be Doing it Wrong
And if you’re flossing doesn’t seem to be yielding results, there’s always the possibility that you’re not doing it correctly.
Rather than just running the floss quickly between your teeth to dislodge visible particles, the ADA proposes a list of guidelines for your next flossing session. Instead, you should be curving the floss into a ‘C’ shape, gently rubbing the sides of all teeth, with a motion that moves the floss away from the gums.
The importance of flossing may have been brought into question lately, but that shouldn’t stop you from including it in your hygiene regimen – in the long run, you won’t regret it.