In an ideal world, flossing would be a part of everyone’s hygiene routine. At least that’s according to the American Dental Association. Sparks are flying, however, in regards to the actual effectiveness of flossing and whether it’s needed. For those of us taunted by the everlasting question “Do you floss every day?” at the dentist’s office, this debate needs a resolution.
Generally, brushing and flossing helps remove plaque, the sticky film on teeth that can cause cavities. If plaque is not removed, it may become tartar and form around your gum line, which is a major precursor of gum disease. Once tartar builds up, only a dentist can remove it, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Although research has not proven its effectiveness, flossing is thought to help remove the plaque around the gums before it gets too late.
But, as college students know, many people don’t want to floss every night. According to a national reported study at The Center for Disease Control and Protection, only 30% of people floss daily. Of college students, only 22% go to the dentist’s office annually for a cleaning. Furthermore, many of those students don’t take care of their teeth that well because they claim they don’t have the time or the energy to floss as much as they should.
The debate on the power of flossing has become increasingly prominent in the oral hygiene world. Many dentists were shocked when the federal government omitted the recommendation to floss from their dietary guidelines, issued every five years. Shortly after this subtle drop, the Associated Press reported that the federal government released its recommendation because there was very low evidence that flossing reduces the risk for cavities or gum disease.
And yet, the ADA has insisted, despite the federal stance, that flossing should still be considered a daily habit to maintain dental hygiene. In fact, shortly after the Associated Press’s article on the effectiveness of flossing, the American Dental Association wrote in response that “interdental cleaning,” including water flossers and wooden sticks in addition to floss, is recommended and beneficial to oral hygiene,. Although research is minimal, the ADA believes the habit of flossing could provide some benefit, albeit small. They concluded that the benefits of flossing are highly dependent on whether the patient flosses correctly.
Shortly after this article, the US Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement in response. They maintain that the omission of flossing from their dietary guidelines does not mean that it isn’t a useful and effective practice in dental care. Although this statement was publicized by the American Dental Association, many people are still confused. Flossing is important—so how can I effectively floss to ensure I don’t get cavities?
According to many, the average person who flosses largely misses the spots that are most cavity prone. The ADA states that effective flossing includes going behind and beneath the gum line. By doing so, one is ensuring that the entire tooth is clean instead of just the visible portions. With gum diseases like gingivitis, going around the gum line is especially important. The ADA also recommends tooth pickers that can go between teeth faster and can be easier to handle for some people.
Although there is not a lot of research done on the inherent benefits of effective flossing, many agree that it is imperative to one’s health. Think about it this way—if there were something extra you could do that could keep you healthy, wouldn’t it make sense to do it?