There is an old saying, “You don’t have to floss all of your teeth, just the ones you want to keep”. Interestingly, multiple news outlets picked up on an AP story Aug 2, 2016 which called into question the recommendation for daily flossing. The shortened version is this, 2015 Federal Dietary Guidelines did not include a flossing recommendation while in 2005 and 2010 they had. It is now considered “supporting recommendation….” It makes sense, after all, flossing is not part of our diet like sugar is. Media response to that original story includes this from Business Insider (8/2, Brodwin) that the AP report “comes in sharp contrast to recommendations from basically every major dental hygiene organization, including the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Periodontology.” The New York Times and New York Magazine also carried responses in favor of flossing. Personal experience in dental school convinced this dentist that flossing is beneficial and necessary. Believe what you will, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that your toothbrush doesn’t reach in between teeth, nor under you gumline; two areas that lead to cavities and gum problems. To me, it is a no brainer, but so is not smoking (more on that later). So, if you believe flossing is beneficial, how should it be done? Let’s start with how often, DAILY! The longer plaque is on a tooth, the more firmly it becomes attached. Disrupting that daily provides the most benefit. My personal preference is before bed, prior to brushing. Flossing does remove some plaque, but some of it is simply loosened and brought out from in between teeth or up from under the gumline. Brushing after doing so helps remove what was loosened. Waxed, unwaxed, tape, it doesn’t matter. Use the type you prefer, just do it. What is important is that you don’t just floss in between your teeth, you need to curve it to follow the shape of each tooth and carry it into the sulcus (collar that the gums form around each and every tooth) until it is in as far as it will go, though don’t use a sawing action in the sulcus. Once you’ve curved around one tooth, come up slightly and curve it the opposite direction to get the adjoining tooth. If you feel like you are all thumbs or your hands are too big, there are a variety of floss picks and holders, letting you reach further into your mouth and keep your fingers out. Healthy gums don’t bleed unless you cut them. If you notice bleeding while flossing, don’t skip that area thinking you did something wrong. It is dirty and irritated. Stay with it and over the next week or two; you should notice continuing improvement as evidenced by less bleeding and tenderness. Most people unfortunately do not floss; maybe that is why over 50% of the population has some level of gum disease. If you have questions about how to do, ask us at your next Recare appointment.
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