...That is the question!
You know how to get people talking about flossing? Publish a report that tells them that they don't have to floss! Over the past month we have had more people bring up the subject of flossing than we have over the past year! So let's break it on down...no I don't mean MC Hammer style!
Many, many moons ago in 1819 a New Orleans dentist by the name of Spear Parmly published a book called A Practical Guide to the Management of Teeth. Dr. Parmly recommended interproximal flossing with waxed silk to dislodge food particles and bacteria. He noticed a difference in patients who regularly removed plaque that was not accessible by tooth brushing alone and wanted to share his fancy findings with the world! Not long after that, Johnson and Johnson patented the first dental floss product. A dozen packs of floss for $1.50! Jiminy Cricket, who can beat that!?!
In 1979 the US Government added flossing into the Surgeon General's Report for Healthy Living, and later, into the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Recommendations in these reports are required by law to be backed by evidence-based scientific research. Hygienists everywhere jumped for joy and spread floss samples to the masses! Less gingivitis! Less bad breath! Less bleeding, less cavities, more teeth saved by prevention! Hooray!
Last year, the Associated Press (AP) asked the Health and Human Services and Agriculture for the evidence behind the recommendation, then later submitted written requests under the Freedom of Information Act. The AP looked at the flossing research that spanned the last 25 years and concluded that it was "weak, somewhat unreliable, and had a moderate potential for bias". The US Government removed the flossing recommendation for the time being until current evidence-based research is available.
So what does this all mean? I welcome you to listen to the perspective of someone who is elbow deep in plaque, calculus, and gum disease daily...your hygienist! There is ABSOLUTELY a difference in the oral health of those who floss versus those who do not. Even the best toothbrushers in the world do not compare to those who floss with proper technique on a daily basis. Hands down, people who floss have less inflammation (which deserves a blog post all it's own!), less cavities, better breath, and better overall oral health. Believe it or not, we can actually tell if you are flossing or just telling us that you are. Wink, wink...don't fib to your hygienist! If it didn't make a difference, we wouldn't be able to easily pick out flossers from non-flossers.
Still need your own proof? Here is the challenge! Don't floss for 10 days. Yes, you just heard a hygienist tell you not to floss for 10 days! Brush, use mouthwash, whatever floats your boat, just no floss. On the eleventh day, floss! Make sure you get each surface and reach below the gum tissue. Look at the floss after each tooth. If you really want proof, smell the floss after each tooth. That, my friends, is the bacteria that has been globbing together and setting up camp between your teeth and under your gums. Notice that some places may bleed, that is from inflammation that has set in. If left to work it's magic, the bacteria will produce enough acid to cause a hole in the tooth. That's right folks, a good 'ol cavity! The bacteria gets into your bloodstream and stirs up inflammation around the rest of your body. All of this can be prevented with something that is cheap, fast, and easy!
The answer to the pressing question...YES, floss. Although, we do love spending time with you. If you want to hangout with us more often, try the non-flossing route! Until next time, happy flossing!