Maybe your guilt over not flossing daily was slightly assuaged by recent headlines reporting that flossing has no benefit, but deep down you know something just doesn’t sound right about those claims. Well, your gut feeling is right. Like eating well and regular exercise, flossing is something we all KNOW we should do and don’t need a study to prove it.
No one is destined to get cavities or gum disease; they are 100% preventable!
Brushing cleans most of the surfaces of our teeth, but cannot clean in between the teeth -- this is where flossing is necessary. Floss cleans the surfaces between our teeth, which is vital for long term dental health, because this is where the majority of cavities start and is also where gingivitis (gum disease) begins. If cavities or gum disease are allowed to progress, it can lead to the need for extensive dental work or even tooth loss. Imagine smiling without your front tooth; you probably won’t enjoy it.
As Americans, we spend almost six hours (that is 360 minutes!) a day looking at a screen, but less than a third of us take the one minute it takes to floss daily. If you took a single minute away from looking at some political meme or posting selfie #8,674 on your Instagram feed to floss, you could keep your teeth for the rest of your life (eating comfortably and smiling into your 80s), save some serious money on dental work, and still have 359 minutes to look at your screen. Plus, you will probably have even more time to watch cat videos on YouTube because you will spend less time visiting the dentist.
Want to prove flossing is beneficial in your own at home study? No Ph.D. or fancy equipment required. After flossing your teeth, cup the used floss in your hand and smell it. It smells disgusting, right? That is what is staying in your mouth if you don’t floss daily -- and bad breath will be the least of your worries.
You are probably wondering what is wrong with the studies if dentists are not agreeing with the findings. The truth is, the studies cited in the articles were of “poor quality.” How much weight we give to the findings of scientific studies is based on how well the studies were designed, and the recent studies discussed in newspapers like the New York Times were not well designed. Another example of a poorly designed study described in the New York Times a few years ago was one that stated dental radiographs (x-rays) caused brain cancer. Findings were derived by asking people who were already diagnosed with brain cancer if they remembered ever having dental x-rays and concluded because most of the people had dental x-rays at some point in their lives, their brain cancer was caused by the x-rays. In reality, most of the people had probably been in 3rd grade, gotten a driver’s license, or listened to country music but that does not mean any of those things caused their brain cancer. Correlation does not imply causation!
Also, each of these studies only lasted for three months. Gum disease and cavities take more than three months to develop, so of course the studies show no benefit of flossing -- they are not long enough to tell the whole story. It is similar to saying that excessive sun exposure does not lead skin cancer because after only three months, there is no skin cancer detected. We know this is untrue as skin cancer takes longer than three months to appear and is actually on the rise, especially in young adult females. So don’t forget to slather on that SPF as well. In short, both the flossing study and x-ray study were worthless and was simply hyped up in the media.
You only have one body and one set of natural teeth in this life. Take care of them! Everyone has the potential to keep their pearly whites for life and it’s never too late to improve your oral hygiene regimen. Adding flossing to your daily routine is a quick and cheap way to prevent a lifetime of dental problems. Spending just $10 a year on floss (but you have to use it!) has the potential to save thousands on dental work. For anyone that is financially savvy, you have probably already calculated that is not a bad return your investment. Studies may come and go but remember a smile is always in style - so floss! -Dr. Berry
If you have any questions on flossing - from technique to what type of floss to use - we are here to help! Give us a call at 207-465-7300 or send us a note here to call you back.
Our goal for is all our patients to keep their teeth for life!