Dental Floss, Flossing or Bacterial Plaque- What’s The Real Issue
Dental Floss Controversy
“Medical Benefits of Dental Floss Unproven” was the headline in an AP article written by Jeff Donn August 2, 2016. Since then patients have been asking questions as to whether or not it makes sense for them to continue flossing their teeth. So much controversy about floss ensued, that FLOSSING rated enough to hit most news outlets in the midst of a contentious Presidential campaign, devastating floods in Louisiana and the ongoing XXXI Summer Olympiad. Clarification and reassurance to the public is in order, before people mindlessly adopt a false premise, toss their floss in the round file and abandon their quest for securing or maintaining oral health!
Oral Health- Not About Floss Alone
Actually, removal of BACTERIAL PLAQUE from oral structures provides the health benefit. Research has detailed to how biofilm, a combination of debris including bacteria, food and other elements, collects on teeth and gums causing tooth decay, gum disease. Other far reaching effects throughout the body may occur including cardiac ailments. The relationship between accumulated oral biofilm and disease is well known and wide spread throughout the world’s population. In fact, oral cleanliness by any means reduces the risk of disease. But, other factors including diet and level of inherent resistance may skew flossing’s effectiveness curve. It is not about flossing alone! Yet, I don’t understand why the AP would mislead the public to believe FLOSS could be responsible for a medical benefit in the first place. Does that piece of string have a life of it own?
Flossing Teeth With Decay, Gum Disease- Little Effect
Do you have decay or gum disease and expect that preventive techniques will substitute for treatment? Why is this important? Because, you may be disappointed to find out that unless deteriorated conditions are “taken care of”, dental disease will continue to progress, despite your best efforts with brush and dental floss! Your circumstance requires TREATMENT and you are beyond the threshold where preventive techniques work.
Where Does Flossing Fit In
Floss is one tool in an arsenal of many hygiene devices, an instrument designed for plaque removal in specific clinical circumstances. Sustained long term health maintenance using a simple tool like dental floss requires a healthy start point! Get examined and take care of unhealthy conditions. Now, at least, you’ve got a chance your flossing will be effective! Your dentist or dental hygienist can help customize a “home care” regimen that creates a favorable long term outlook, but it requires your continuous and regular participation. Today, the ability to maintain oral cleanliness has never been easier. We have many tools to choose from including floss! Most importantly, identify the ones that are best suited for you and use them as recommended! The act of removing bacterial plaque and food debris from the mouth by any tool or technique does help win the day for oral health. DO NOT THROW YOUR FLOSS OUT! If you are NOT succeeding with floss in your mouth as advised, you may still find many other extra oral uses, like tying your Clematis plant to your deck or hanging Christmas ornaments!
Dentistry Still Tied to Flossing
Maybe some people require a 100 million dollar epidemiological STUDY over 20 years to provide indisputable evidence of “medical benefit” before they use of a piece of string to remove gunk from between their teeth. In the meantime common sense and the recommendation of an old Vermont born dentist, Dr. Levi Spear Parmly, who first advocated the use of a “waxed silken thread” for oral cleanliness in 1819, will have to suffice. And, until definitive research has been completed, dental flossing among other devices will be included in our recommendations to help our patients be effective as they can at keeping their mouth fresh, clean and healthy. After all, it is my opinion and that of many of my colleagues, there is no evidence that NOT flossing and not cleaning between your teeth provides any medical benefit either!
Yours in health,
Blane J. Nasveschuk, DMD
- “Medical Benefits of Dental Floss Unproven”- Associated Press
- Practical Guide to the Management of Teeth- By Dr. Levi Spear Parmly 1819 (see page 72)