To Floss or Not To Floss

Everyone knows the importance of maintaining good personal hygiene, washing hands, showering regularly, wearing clean clothes, and brushing your teeth. However, there is an important component to brushing your teeth that most people don’t do and they should. Growing up I’m sure everyone experienced their parents and dentist stressing the fact that flossing is important and you need to do it. When I was younger I never flossed my teeth unless I had a dentist appointment that day and wanted to avoid getting the lecture about flossing. And no matter what, I could never fool the dentist into thinking I floss regularly, because they know best and even after being told I need to floss, I still would never do it.

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When I was around 16 years old I started working in a dentist office doing some administration work. I still have that job to this day and let me tell you, flossing is important. I love to take care of my teeth, they’re like my precious jewels that I take much pride in. To maintain the beautiful teeth I have and always get complimented on, I brush and floss them regularly. And I never knew the true importance of flossing until I started working in a dentist office. Even though I mostly do administration work, such as filing and scheduling, I do occasionally assist the hygienists with periodontal charting.

Periodontal charting is a basically a test to assess what condition your teeth and mostly gums are in. Essentially it is used to tell if a person is flossing regularly and assessing for gum disease. The hygienist will poke the gums and measure, in millimeters, the depth of the gum tissue for each tooth. The lower the millimeters, the better condition your gums and teeth are, but the higher, the millimeters, the more severe your gum disease is and the more at risk you are for tooth loss. Higher numbers are also associated with more bleeding, which is not good. When I assist the hygienists, I enter the numbers that are called out into the patients file. After sitting in on so many and seeing some really gross mouths, I realized that I really need to floss my teeth, and I do not want to lose my most priced possessions, my teeth.

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Studies have proven that flossing greatly benefits your oral health and the deeper the periodontal pockets are in your mouth; you are more at risk for major health problems. When we eat, plaque and food builds up on our teeth and brushing our teeth takes care of it, but doesn’t get any build up in between our teeth which is what flossing is for. Aggressive treatment is required to save teeth and it is almost always required to have surgery to repair any damage. Having gum disease can also lead to tooth loss and even more serious issues such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and eve respiratory problems (Langberg).

One study, done by researchers at the New York University College of Dentistry, has proven the positive benefits of flossing. They chose to follow twins in their research because twins typically live together and share the same dietary habits and health practices which makes them the perfect subjects to compare results. 1,100 twin pairs, male/female and identical/fraternal, were assembled from a disadvantaged neighborhood in a Brazilian city where the subjects had limited access to dental care and were at risk for decay (Colgate). The researchers followed 51 well-matched pairs in a two-week period and found that periodontal disease and decay was found significantly more in the group that did not floss compared to the group that did floss. The results found that brushing teeth and also flossing decreases the number of bacteria that is associated with gum disease (Colgate).

flossing teeth

flossing teeth

As you can see, flossing is a very important component of good hygiene. No matter what people say about flossing, you should always listen to the professional (your dentist) because they know best and wouldn’t tell you to floss if it wasn’t beneficial to you. You can floss all you want, but doing it correctly is what will help the most. If you’re worried about flossing wrong, here is an article that tells you how to effectively floss your teeth.

Works Cited

Langberg, Dr. “What Is a Periodontal (gum) Chart? – Southfield Dentist | Family and Cosmetic Dentistry.” Southfield Dentist | Family and Cosmetic Dentistry. N.p., 2014. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.

Colgate. “Twins Study Confirms Benefits of Flossing.” Colgate.com. Colgate, 2009. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.

2 thoughts on “To Floss or Not To Floss

  1. Patrick Winch

    Annalise- I found your post very interesting for one reason specifically. Every night before bed here at school, I floss my teeth and my roommate does not. I’ve flossed consistently for the past couple years- and he claims that he hasn’t. With that being said, I’ve had 3 cavities and he hasn’t had any. I think an important thing to look at when dealing with oral health is genetics. I found this article on CNN that talks about teeth and the role than genetics play in how healthy a person’s teeth are. (Unfortunately, my family does not have a great history of very healthy teeth).
    http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/03/health/tooth-decay-causes/

    1. Lucille Laubenstein

      Many factors, and potential indicators about one’s mental and physical health can be attributed to genetics. Knowing that, I have no idea why I never connected genetics to oral health. I always assumed oral health was strictly correlated with environmental factors, one’s diet, and one’s hygiene habits. After reading your comment, I immediately became concerned, because while my mom has excellent dental health, my dad do not! Every trip to the dentist office for him is a horrific event. Fearing for my future, I further researched to see how big of an impact genetics were on one’s dental health. After reading an article in the Journal of Dental Education (http://www.jdentaled.org/content/68/8/807.short), I found out that the main things one should be concerned about having a genetic predisposition for, are malformations of teeth, which really there is nothing anyone can do to control that, as well as increased susceptibility to oral pathogens, and it could affect one’s reaction various medications.

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