Dental Health Matters: Do I need to Floss?

By Matthew Larsen, DMD

Recent articles have created some confusion about everyone’s favorite activity

Do you need to floss?  There’s a short answer and it is: YES!

But I Read Online…
Back in August, the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services dropped flossing from their list of dietary guidelines for Americans. This caused quite the stir online—with many headlines touting the idea that you don’t need to feel guilty about not flossing. This is true. You don’t need to feel guilty about it, but you might be paying the consequences later. The DAHHS dropped the recommendation from their guidelines because no study examining the effects of flossing has ever been done. This does not mean that flossing was proven ineffective! What is does mean, is that researchers have not been able to find a sizable pool of people to include in a study nor have they been able to examine gum health over a long period of time.

What Does This Mean For Me?
Many people are jumping for joy at the idea of not having the dark cloud of flossing hanging over their heads. However, this announcement hasn’t changed the opinion of most dental professionals when they say that flossing is a necessary part of your oral health routine. Think about it—the last time you flossed, you surely noticed the chunks of food left on the string of floss. Even if there are no studies proving that this can affect your future oral health, do you want to leave that gunk in your mouth? These particles of food become a breeding ground for bacteria in a place that’s hard, if not impossible to reach with a toothbrush. Still need proof? We invite you to step into your bathroom and brush your teeth. Surely, your mouth feels nice and clean. Now, grab that dusty roll of floss and get to work. Take a look at all the slime left on the floss even after a good brushing. That should be proof enough!

Stating The Facts
One thing that studies HAVE proven in recent years is the connection between bacteria found in the mouth and other serious health concerns like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and respiratory disease. Poor oral health can and will eventually effect other areas of your body. So even though there are no studies directly linking flossing to better oral health  most dentists (me included) still agree that flossing should be a continued part of your daily hygiene routine.

Don’t Wait!
Even if you are flossing, you still need to stay on top of your routine cleanings. Hygienists use special tools designed to clean your teeth below the gumline and help protect you from gum disease and other issues that can arise from the build-up of too much bacteria. If you’ve not had a cleaning in a while, get to your dentist.  If you don’t have one, there are a lot of great providers in Billings (including Yellowstone Family Dental). Don’t put your dental health on hold!  A little bit of maintenance can save you a lot of pain, and money, in the long run.

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