The truth about flossing

A report by the Associated Press released in 2016 suggested that flossing no longer has the sheen of respectability that it once did. According to the report, flossing is no longer a fundamental part of the daily dental care routine, despite what we’ve all been hearing our entire lives from dental experts. Why now, after over 100 years of promotion from the American Dental Association and other groups, has the practice of dental flossing fallen out of favor? We here at Charlotte Progressive Dental would like to clear the confusion up about the effectiveness of flossing and the impact it can have on your dental health.

“Remember to floss between your teeth after you brush”, your parents would constantly remind you when you were growing up. You would always hear the same thing from your dentist too, along with some handy tips and a free sample of floss on your way out the door of the dentist’s office. Were they wrong? Was this some kind of bizarre, nonsensical conspiracy between your guardians and your dentist to ingrain a totally unnecessary habit of hygiene in your brain?

In order to get to the truth of what is actually going on here, we need to cover some basic information that the 2016 AP article missed.

What’s Really Going On With Flossing?

In 2006, a group of dental experts studied the difference between those who had their flossing done by a dentist and those who flossed at home. Over an 18 month period, volunteers were told to either visit a dentist for a professional flossing five days a week or do their own flossing at home for the same period. The results were what one might expect: there was a 40% risk reduction for those who went to a dentist, but no overall effect was seen in the at-home flossers. Essentially, what this means is that the at-the-dentist volunteers saw a reduced risk in dental problems like plaque and cavities, while the do-it-yourself flossers experienced no change in their oral health.

What this led the researchers to believe was that those flossing at home were doing it wrong — instead of following guidelines offered by their dentists, they were just “going through the routine” in order to get it done and over with. This makes sense because nobody really enjoys flossing, do they? It’s just one of the many things we do throughout our day, like using the bathroom or shaving, that becomes more mindless the more we do it.

However, it is important to do your flossing right. Most people floss with a brisk sawing motion, dragging the flossing string between their teeth like they’re trying to cut down a miniature oak tree that somehow got lodged in their mouth! In order to properly floss your teeth you need to follow these steps–

The Right Way To Floss

  • Pull around 16”-18” of floss from the dispenser, winding it around the index fingers of both hands
  • Make sure you have about 1”-2” of floss between each of your fingers
  • Use your thumbs to guide the floss into the space between your teeth, using minimal pressure to avoid the floss from snapping or “popping”
  • With a slight zig-zag motion, run the floss along the edges of your teeth in a C-shape, starting from the bottom of one tooth and running to the top along the gum line to the next tooth.
  • Be careful when running the floss across your gum line; too much pressure can cause bleeding
  • For best results, use a fresh string of floss for each space between your teeth

Feel free to use whatever type of floss you feel most comfortable with, whether it’s waxed, unwaxed, or threaded. If you find flossing with traditional string to be too time-consuming, you may want to consider trying flossing picks, which are premade with convenience in mind.

Proper use of floss, as outlined above, can help prevent plaque, tooth decay, and cavities. It’s a good addition to your daily oral routine when used in conjunction with brushing, and should not be ignored.

Visit Your Local Dentist For More Information

If you have further concerns about flossing, talk to your dentist — they’d be glad to answer any questions you might have about flossing and its real impact on your dental health.

Don’t forget that visiting your local family dentistry is also important for your health! In addition to showing you the best way to floss and take care of your teeth, the experts at Charlotte Progressive Dentistry can provide services such as cosmetic dentistry, oral cancer screenings, and general dentistry, all done with care and professionalism. We’re proud to be a part of the Charlotte community by contributing to the wellbeing of our patients, and we promise to treat each case we receive with the utmost respect and compassion.

Contact Charlotte Progressive Dentistry today!