We know we recently talked about the ADA and the Federal Government’s position on flossing: you should floss your teeth and gums every day. However, in light of some recent articles and new information, we feel that we need to address the issue of flossing once again. Before we dive in, our stance on the issue is still yes, you need to floss every day.
Bacteria in the Bloodstream
Unless you are very, very well disciplined, you’ve probably stopped flossing for some amount of time and then restarted flossing. Do you remember what happens when you start again? Your gums get red and puffy, and possibly start to bleed a bit. While this can be a little painful and annoying, generally this goes away in a couple of days. No problem, right?
That’s wrong, unfortunately. New evidence shows that irregular flossing, intermittent flossing, and bad flossing technique may actually spread bacteria into your bloodstream, causing you to become sick. While there are no clinical trials that show definitively how harmful this could be, the lesson is clear – you should floss properly and regularly.
What’s the Deal with Oral Health?
A 2006 study was done on professional flossing vs at home (bad technique) flossing on kids 4-13. Over the period of 18 months, they had half of the kids professionally flossed every day and the other half floss at home. The professionally-flossed experienced a 40% decrease in risks for cavities while the at-home-flossers experienced no change in risk at all.
“Now that’s all fine and dandy,” you might say, “but even if all of my teeth fall out, who cares? That’s not really a serious medical issue.” Again, that’s wrong, unfortunately. The ADA likes to say “The mouth is a gateway into your body’s overall health.”
Gum disease, tooth loss, and bad breath can be embarrassing side effects of poor oral hygiene, but these side effects can affect other parts of the body: you can give yourself pneumonia from breathing in pathogens from periodontal disease, diabetes inflammation has been shown to be related to gum disease, and gum inflammation can cause pregnancy complications. Ulcers, brain abscesses, kidney disease, and even cancer has been linked to poor oral health – so there’s every reason to keep your teeth clean and to floss properly and regularly, because your oral health, and by proxy your overall health, will sparkle.
Proper Flossing Technique
So, the moral here is that you should not only be flossing regularly but properly. We’ve talked about proper flossing technique before, but there are alternatives to regular floss. Water flossers and air flossers, while more expensive, offer somewhat better flossing results than normal dental floss. If you decide to stay with old reliable dental floss, there are great visual aids on how to make sure that you’re flossing properly.