Spoiler alert: Not even the most diligent brushing habits can substitute for flossing.
Brushing your teeth, rinsing with mouthwash, and flossing are the three most important factors in oral hygiene. Cleaning your teeth twice a day is the ideal routine, but many people only do it once.
Skipping your evening teeth-cleaning isn’t a good idea, but it’s the fact that many people completely ignore flossing that’s the real problem. According to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a third of Americans never floss. This staggering finding came from an analysis of 9,000 people, 30 years and older, that self-reported whether or not they floss. “The results showed that 32.4 percent of adults reported no flossing, 37.3 percent reported less than daily flossing and 30.3 percent reported daily flossing in the past week,” reported CNN.
As far as why so many are skipping this important step, lead researcher Dr. Duong Nguyen thinks that it could be because most people just don’t know the real consequences of not flossing. “I think everything goes back to education,” he says.
So how bad is it really to pass on the floss? For starters, just going a couple of days without doing it will cause plaque build-up. Over time, that plaque hardens into tartar, which can only be removed at the dentist. If you think brushing your teeth and rinsing will get rid of all the plaque before it turns into tarter, here’s the cold hard truth: it doesn’t. According to Dr. Timothy Chase, a cosmetic dentist and practicing partner at SmilesNY, the brushing/mouthwash combo is only doing half the job.
“The bacteria that cause cavities and gum infection hide in the area between teeth and in the pockets under the gums—the only way to get them out is with dental floss,” he says. “Never flossing will eventually lead to cavities between the teeth and gum disease in most people.”
Once gum disease enters the picture, the situation becomes a lot more serious. Dr. Alison Newgard, of the Columbia University College of Dentistry says, “Gum disease causes inflammation of the gingival tissue and loss of the periodontal bone that supports the teeth.” In the most severe cases, that can ultimately lead to tooth loss.
Many studies have also linked gum disease to several other health issues, like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, says Dr. Chase. “In pregnant women, gum disease is linked to preterm labor and low birth weight,” adds Dr. Newgard.
Knowing the full scope of the potential dangers of not flossing, that thirty percent figure becomes a lot more shocking. That’s why Dr. Nguyen is advocating for an overhaul in patient education. “We need to make sure people understand something as easy as flossing can prevent a whole host of other dental issues for you as you age and grow up.”
The bottom line? For prime oral health, floss once a day, or more if you can. The more you do it, the more likely you’ll create—and maintain—a healthy flossing habit.
Source: Marlisse Cepeda – Woman’s Day
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