The other day as I was performing my part of the morning ritual to ready my office for yet another day of patient care, I was blown away by this headline in The New York Times:
Feeling Guilty About Not Flossing? Maybe There’s No Need
Wait a minute! Did I read that right? No flossing? No guilt?
No need to feel guilty about the abandonment of such an accepted and much touted decades-old practice of oral hygiene?
It was reminiscent of Woody Allen’s movie Sleeper, where our lovable nebbish awakens from a hundred-year slumber to discover that cigarette smoking has been found to be a healthy practice. Funny, right? But this not flossing thing is not funny.
The exclusion of flossing from the Department of Agriculture’s and The Department of Health and Human Services’ dietary guidelines may be interpreted to mean that flossing is a waste of time and perhaps even an exercise in futility when it comes to preventing advanced periodontal (gum) disease.
Not so fast! It turns out that any recommendation by the federal government to the public at large must be validated by bona fide peer-reviewed research and double-blind studies. Many health and nutritional guidelines such as the classic food pyramid, the minimal dietary vitamin intake, daily exercise protocols, etc. are held to that standard.
But perhaps to their embarrassment, these two government agencies recently discovered a lack of sufficient research to prove the efficacy of flossing in preventing periodontal disease and tooth decay. The only reason for the lack research is a lack of sufficient numbers of willing participants available to conduct such studies.
In other words, flossing has not been shown to be ineffective in preventing dental disease; there simply hasn’t been enough research conducted to substantiate it.
What Dental Professionals Know About Flossing
Bacterial plaque is the major cause of tooth decay, gingivitis, and more advanced gum disease. Brushing is effective in removing this plaque from the flat areas of your teeth (the front, back and biting surfaces). To remove plaque from between your teeth and on the interproximal surfaces (areas between adjoining your teeth), flossing is absolutely necessary.
[Are you brushing your teeth the right way? Read: The Dos and Don’ts of Brushing Your Teeth]
Practicing dentists and dental hygienists have observed patients for many decades and know that the combination of brushing and flossing effectively removes bacterial plaque. And when bacterial plaque is eliminated the primary cause of dental disease is also eliminated. It’s that simple.
Eat some corn on the cob and you’ll likely end up with some pesky residual yellow niblets stuck between your teeth. These softened yellow kernels contain nearly invisible microscopic reservoirs of bacterial plaque. Brushing alone does remove them and you may have noticed that only flossing will get them out. Not flossing leaves accumulated food and bacteria between your teeth.
The American Dental Association has not removed flossing from their recommendations of how to keep your teeth and gums healthy. And neither should you.
Listen To Your Dentist: Not Flossing? Yes, Guilt!
To read the NYTimes article link here: Feeling Guilty About Not Flossing? Maybe There’s No Need
Michael Sinkin, DDS practices in New York City. He loves being a dentist and is known throughout the city for taking wonderful care of his patients and for his wicked sense of humor. To contact Dr. Sinkin, link here.