Flossing: Don’t believe everything you read

Recently it has been reported by the news media that the evidence for flossing preventing inflammation in the gums is weak. Many of the studies were done several decades ago and lasted two weeks or less. The studies lasted two weeks or less because periodontal disease can develop after two weeks of not practicing plaque control such as brushing or flossing. It would be unethical to experimentally induce this disease on human subjects.

There appears to be sparse recent evidence on the subject with respect to research studies. However, some things are so obvious that it is not worth the time, energy, or dollars to study them. For example, there are no studies in favor of using parachutes when jumping out of an airplane, or that swimming with great white sharks in a cage vs. the open ocean is safer.

Flossing cleans the sides of the teeth.
If one can think of the sides of the teeth we can access to clean: the top, front, back, left, right…not flossing leaves 2/5, or 40% of the surfaces uncleaned. Plaque can accumulate in between the teeth and cause tooth decay and gingivitis. If left alone to fester, gingivitis can progress into periodontitis, an irreversible loss of supporting bone around the teeth.

The benefits of flossing far outweigh the risks. Flossing can be harmful if performed improperly, leading to clefts or grooves in the gums, bleeding, or grooves in the sides of the teeth. On the other hand, when done correctly, flossing is very beneficial when done once daily. It prevents bacteremias, or bacteria from the mouth from entering the bloodstream. This is especially important for patients who have artificial joints and / or prosthetic heart valves and stents. Flossing also helps clear away and clean the sides of the teeth. This prevents the buildup of plaque that can lead to decay, gum disease, and ultimately tooth loss.

Please, please, please, trust the experts on this one, we have spent thousands of hours treating people who do not floss their teeth. Not flossing your teeth is great for business, but not for your teeth!

Dr. Jonathan A. Blansett