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To Floss or Not to Floss

getty_rf_photo_of_woman_flossing_teethThis issue recently gained media attention, quite possibly on a slow news day. We thought it best to provide our recommendations and rationale on this matter. Our office prides itself on providing quality dental care and dental education to our patients.We feel it is very important to be a source of rational information and direction, that comes from years of experience and an understanding of what makes up and keeps a“healthy” mouth.

In gaining an understanding of the point of flossing,some basic premises need to be identified. First off, the enemy to dental health is the stagnation of bacteria and its byproducts for extended periods of time. It is our personal and professional opinion and observations that if plaque and bacteria can be removed on a daily basis, the dental health of the teeth, gums and underlying bone tend to remain in a more healthy state. By allowing stagnation of debris, the gums will become inflamed and the teeth begin to breakdown to form cavities. The underlying bone will then also begin to dissolve, decreasing the support to the teeth for comfortable chewing.

Secondly, teeth have four sides! These four sides are an inside (towards the tongue) and outside (towards the cheeks) and two other sides that are adjacent to the tooth next to them. Proper brushing will clean and debride the inside and the outside surface of the teeth. When it comes to cleaning in between the teeth, the bristles of a brush cannot access these surfaces. For most people, flossing is the only means of cleaning in between your teeth. These surfaces of the tooth are made of the same enamel, and are vulnerable to decay, just like the other parts of the tooth. It is not uncommon for tooth decay to develop on the surface of the tooth adjacent to another tooth.

Gum inflammation and pocketing is another response to stagnated debris that can be found in between the teeth. Given enough time, and exposure to the stagnated debris, the bone supporting the teeth can become compromised and disappear. This is called periodontitis. When this bone loss occurs, the support for the tooth itself becomes less and teeth can become mobile. This makes these areas difficult to chew comfortably on and prone to further infection.

Our saying in the dental world is:“You don’t have to floss all of your teeth, just the ones you want to keep”! Our office will go on record as recommending proper flossing and brushing and regular cleanings as the best way to enjoy a lifetime of healthy, comfortable teeth and gums. If you have any questions or concerns in this matter, please contact our office and we will be glad to address these.

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