Oct 3rd, 2016
Author: Corey Roach
Recently, the New York Times produced an article questioning the importance and benefits of flossing. The original article can be read here.
Naturally we have had a number of patients bring this to our attention and have asked our opinions on the matter. My simple answer to our patients, “Please continue to floss.”
The article moves back and forth between flossing’s ineffectiveness at preventing tooth decay, and preventing “severe periodontal disease,” and sites the lack of long term scientific studies to support it. So before we throw the baby out with the bathwater it’s important to understand what exactly is the goal and purpose of flossing. All of us, no matter how good our oral hygiene is have between 200 and 300 different types of bacteria in our mouths. Only a hand full of these will cause damage to the teeth, gum tissue and bone. These bacteria work together and form what is called a biofilm or plaque on your teeth. If you’re a good brusher and know that smooth clean feeling you get after your normal hygiene routine, then you might also know that “fuzzy” feeling you can get on a day you might have forgotten to brush first thing in the morning. That “fuzzy” feeling is in actually plaque. It’s a biofilm of bacteria that have glued themselves to your teeth. Yummy!! The problem with these handful of bacteria is what they end up doing to our teeth and gums, and ultimately our bone. Some of these bacteria create acid. But fear not. Biofilm is easily removed with friction. It can simply be wiped away. That’s why your teeth go from fuzzy to smooth. You’ve removed the bacteria and biofilm from your teeth.
So, if we know how effective brushing can be at removing the plaques and bacteria, let’s think about this flossing thing again. Flossing, like brushing is a mechanical way to disturb and remove the biofilm from our teeth and root surfaces. There are areas where a brush simply won’t clean effectively because of the shape and contours of our teeth and gums. Now I know this might seem like a gross suggestion, but to those of you who doubt, don’t floss at all for 2 weeks and then do so and smell the floss after you have removed it. More than likely this won’t be a fragrance you would like to have put in your mouth. But that’s exactly where it came from. That smell is the byproduct of the bacteria and food debris that is remaining between your teeth and under your gums. You’ll be healthier by cleaning these areas regularly.
Cory Roach DDS