Recently there has been an article that has gone viral on social media regarding floss and flossing. We’ve been getting a bunch of questions from patients so I figured this would be a good topic to post about. The gist of the article is that there has been no conclusive research on the effectiveness of flossing in reducing bacteria and plaque in between teeth. I won’t get into the argument of this study says this and that study shows that. People will believe what they want, and generally speaking, in any area of research for any study that says one thing, you’ll probably find another that will contradict it. So instead, I’ll tell you what we do know:

  • Bacteria on the teeth turns into plaque, which if not removed regularly can lead to decay (cavities)
  • Regular brushing and flossing keeps the plaque to a minimum
  • Regular cleanings and hygiene visits to the dentist remove any stubborn bacteria or plaque that remains after home care

I will venture to hypothesize that traditional flossing may no longer be as necessary because of the rapid evolution of electronic toothbrushes and bristle design and the development of devices like the WaterPik and AirFlosser. However, the effectiveness of any toothbrush or floss regimen largely depends on following the proper use and techniques of each. At a minimum, brushing should be done for a full 2 minutes morning and night, regardless of if it’s a manual or electric toothbrush. With flossing, the mistake most people make is using a back and forth or sawing motion. Flossing should be done at least once a day, with the floss in a “C” shape and using an up and down motion to clean the surfaces between the teeth from top to bottom.

I remember when we remodeled our home kitchen counters. We were trying to save some money by keeping what we could, but unfortunately the faucet needed to be replaced because of calcium build up. What caused this buildup? Basically it was time and neglect. When we would use the sink and water would splash up onto the faucet, we’d just leave it to dry on it’s own, but it didn’t, and over time it just got worse and worse. Sure there are chemicals and cleaners that can help treat the stains but it wasn’t worth the time and money. Instead, we bought a new faucet and decided to be purposeful in taking care of it. Now we keep a towel nearby, and every time we see water around the faucet, we dry it off immediately.

It’s been over 3 years now and the faucet still looks brand new and I didn’t need a study to tell me that wiping down the faucet would prevent stains just like you don’t need a study to tell you that flossing works. You can see the junk it removes because it’s stuck to your bathroom mirror, you know something isn’t right when you floss and you get that foul odor, and you can tell things are improving when you stop seeing your gums bleed.

So take the time to care for your teeth. Brushing and flossing shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes a day. And it shouldn’t cost you anything because we give you a new toothbrush and floss every time you come in for a hygiene visit.  Proper care is a minimal investment for maximizing the longevity of your teeth, but if you still decide that flossing isn’t for you, we ‘d love to see you more often anyway!

Click the links for the ADA’s guidelines on proper brushing and flossing

Faucet image from: