Content reviewed by Dr. Sung of Downtown Dental Choice.
When it comes to your oral health, you want to do everything you can to care for your teeth. For most of us, this includes a daily regimen of religious brushing and flossing. But is flossing really necessary?
For years, your dentist has been recommending regular flossing, but now some studies are saying it might not be all that effective. So what should you believe — and, more importantly, what should you do? If you’re wondering whether flossing still offers teeth benefits, here’s what you need to know.
Do You Really Have to Floss Every Day?
After decades of dentists promoting daily flossing, the Associated Press released a study saying the dental benefits of flossing are inconclusive — meaning there’s not enough scientific evidence to support a direct connection between flossing and cavity prevention. While you might think this gives you enough of an excuse to eliminate the habit, think again.
To floss or not to floss? Despite the hype, dentists still recommend flossing daily. Why? Because it still removes plaque and reduces gum inflammation. Brushing your teeth is essential for eliminating the daily buildup of plaque, preventing tartar and reducing the risk of cavities — but brushing alone will not remove food particles and plaque from between the teeth. Only flossing can get clean these tough-to-reach areas.
When you let bacteria build up between your teeth, it can gradually irritate and infect the gums, causing a common but serious condition called gum disease. Starting as gingivitis and progressing to more serious stages, gum disease causes gum inflammation, receding gums and even tooth loss. If left untreated, it can lead to other health issues — like diabetes and heart disease. Flossing is the only way to thoroughly remove plaque from between your teeth and prevent gum disease over the long-term.
How Can Your Dentist Tell You Don’t Floss?
Still thinking of skipping flossing? Not so fast. You might think brushing is enough to show your dentist you’re taking care of your teeth, but a dentist can always tell when you’re not keeping up with healthy flossing habits. Even if you floss in the days leading up to your check-up, a dental specialist will easily notice signs of gingivitis, which include:
- Receding gums
- Bleeding or red gums
- Bad breath
- Swollen gums
Remember, even if you’re not noticing these symptoms, a dentist is trained to spot them — and they will be sure to tell you if you need to floss more.
Is It Ever Too Late to Start Flossing?
Maybe you’ve been avoiding flossing for a while now and you’re wondering whether you can reverse the damage. Is it too late to start now?
Even if you’re seeing some of the signs of gingivitis, it’s never too late to incorporate flossing into your daily routine. If you continue to floss regularly for about two weeks, the swelling and bleeding in your gums will lessen, and you will start to see a healthier mouth. Remember, consistency is key.