Dental Care

Woman flossing

To Floss Or Not to Floss

A survey by the American Academy of Periodontology found that almost 15% of adults would rather clean a toilet than floss their teeth. That means we either have some people who are really ardent defenders of the porcelain throne or that a lot of people really hate to floss their teeth. Most probably, it’s the latter.

For years, mothers have been telling children to floss their teeth. It might not have seemed the most pleasant activity for a juvenile, but it sort of made sense that it was good for you. Weren’t we always taught that food residue rots teeth enamel? It would then seem logical that if food particles were lurking unknown beneath our teeth, we should surely want to get rid of them, and this seemed to be the main goal of flossing. Could mother have been wrong?

The Skeptics
According to recent reports by the associated Press, officials had never properly researched the effectiveness of regular flossing. (What? Could this have been some capitalistic plot encouraging us to buy ineffective rolls of string?) Well, it seems as if the American Academy of Periodontology concurs. They point to a 2011 Cochrane “oral health” review of 12 studies which, supported the efficacy of flossing. The academy is now claiming that these studies did not “examine gum health over a significant period of time” to determine whether of not there are long term benefits. Tim Iafolla, a dentist with the National institute of dental Craniofacial Research says, “The condition we’re trying to prevent, which is gum disease, is something that takes years to develop and most of the studies only last a few weeks or months.”

The Supporters
Now, keep in mind that the jury is still out on this one. Just because the studies did not support that flossing is beneficial, doesn’t mean it isn’t. Before you go throwing your floss in the dumpster and yelling, “Free at last, free at last,” listen to this: Says Joan Otomo-Corgel, a periodontist with the American Academy of Periodontology,”…My concern is that the public picks up on this and says, ‘Oh, flossing is not a benefit. That means I don’t have to do it.'” She also says, based on her 32 years of observation, flossing gets rid of bacteria that manifest themselves between teeth causing infections and other oral problems. “Biofilms are live,” she says,”I mean…You have different types of bacteria that form and the longer they stay, the more virulent they become.”

Keep in mind also that while studies on prevention of plaque and gum health are inconclusive, floss is still believed to prevent gingivitis, a condition causing fumes to inflame and bleed, although the naysayers are quick to add that the quality of evidence supporting this was “very low.”

It seems that it would be remiss not to include an admonition from Dr. Wayne Aldredge, president of the American Academy of Periodontlogy, who reminds us that gum disease is, “insidious, slow and bone melting.” He says those who quit flossing are, “rolling the dice,” and; “You don’t know if you’ll develop periodontal disease, and your can find out too late.”

Beautiful woman smiling at her partner

Maintaining a Healthy Smile

There are many components to looking great; as important as skincare may be, it’s not the only thing you need to keep on top of to look your very best. That said, making sure to take proper care of your pearly whites, and keep them just that: pearly white, can be difficult. So let’s go over the basics of smile maintenance, as it were, and how to avoid some common pitfalls.

Don’t Skimp on the Brushing…
…and make sure you do it properly. Ideally, you should brush your teeth twice a day, but at least once daily is a bare minimum. When you brush, you want to make sure you brush down right to the gum-line, not just on the exposed surface of your teeth. Plaque can hide under the gum-line, in the tight space between your teeth and your gums. Brush the exposed enamel of your teeth, but after that, push the bristles down into your gum-line and push any plaque out with a flicking motion. Do this along every millimeter of your gums, and don’t forget the hard to reach areas in the back! Try to brush for at least two minutes.

Remember that Floss Is your Friend
Of course, brushing along isn’t enough. You need to floss regularly too. Every day is always a great idea, but you could scrape by with 2-3 times a week. If your gums bleed when you first start flossing after not doing it for ages, don’t worry, they’ll toughen up as you continue to floss. However, if they still bleed after a few weeks of consistent flossing, make an appointment with your dentist, you could have some kind of gum disease.

Visit Your Dentist Regularly
Seriously, don’t wait. Don’t put it off. Get your appointment over with sooner rather than later. Your dentist is trained to detect problems you won’t necessarily notice, even if your home care is fantastic. Further, if you’re trying to improve your home care, your hygienist can show you things like proper brushing and flossing technique, and give you other pointers. And the sooner you visit, the better your odds are of staying cavity-free.

Consider Whitening
If your teeth are yellowed or otherwise stained for whatever reason; be it poor dental hygiene in the past (regardless of whether you’ve worked on it since or not), drinking way too much coffee or tea, or for any other reason, you might consider dental whitening. There are simple, at-home things you can do, like getting a whitening toothpaste or, if you like DIY solutions, making a paste from 1 part baking soda and 1 part water, and using that to brush once a week (baking soda is a natural tooth whitener you can find in your kitchen or at the grocery store for a pittance). If your discoloration isn’t helped by using such methods for a month or two, then talk to your dentist about dental whitening procedures they provide. Discolored teeth are less pressing than a cavity, but it’s worth looking into whitening for the sake of achieving that pearly-white, confidence-filled smile.