The internet has been abuzz with articles about how flossing may not be good for us.
So, is flossing a healthy habit or not?
Can flossing cause harm?
Does flossing do what we’ve been told by the dental industry?
Let’s dive into this subject and help bring clarity to the confusion the media has generated.
If you’ve been reading our blog for a bit, you know that we are ‘pro flossing’ around here provided that we floss consciously and avoid the common mistakes most people make while flossing.
Let’s unpack the findings from the Associated Press that were echoed around the world by other news sources and see what’s really going on here.
The good news about the recent media
We do applaud the article because the author was willing to question the ‘generally recognized as true’ notion that flossing is good for us.
The article also helps to further uncover the potentially manipulative way big corporations can steer the research to support their products.
For clarity, we also like to question cultural norms like ‘flossing is good for you’, so we share the following with you based on our understanding of the whole picture, rather than just what the mainstream newsfeed says today.
The problem with the logic of the investigation
When we distill all this information down, what we see is the whole investigation is off base. It’s based on a general lack of understanding of why we floss.
One of the ‘big statements’ from the AP that has been most often quoted by news sources is, “The majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal.”
Wait a second, whoever said we were trying to remove plaque by flossing?
That’s not the point of flossing at all from our perspective.
It also shows the error in their logic. They are still under the myth that ‘all plaque is bad’. However, the myth ‘plaque is bad’ is just that, a myth! Here’s an article that will help dispel the myth for you, ‘Can some plaques actually help our teeth stay healthy?’
Flossing is a very helpful habit to assist us in being a ‘good conductor’ of the symphony in our mouths. Just in case this is new information to you, our mouths are literally teeming with life. Some of the life in our mouths helps us live healthy, vital lives. Other species downright undermine our oral (and whole body) health.
Our main job is to help maintain a healthy balance of our ‘oral flora’ (what we call the ‘oral microbiome’). You can take a deeper dive into this idea by reading our article, ‘How to balance your oral flora’.
Flossing helps us maintain a healthy balance in our mouths, especially in an area that’s generally under-cared for: between our molars.
You see, it’s not so much that we’re trying to reduce plaque (hence why we think all the current buzz around the AP investigation has missed the point). Instead, we are simply trying to disrupt and disorganize the main bugs implicated with gum disease, especially the ones that tend to colonize between the molars.
But does flossing help us avoid tooth decay between our teeth?
This is a cultural myth. The research is pretty thin to back up the dental industry’s story that the reason we got a cavity between two molars is because we didn’t floss enough.
Yeah, flossing does help to remove food that’s trapped between our teeth, and this is a wise habit. But thinking that we’re going to effectively lower our risk of decay between our teeth by flossing isn’t really backed by the research.
While we plan to write more extensively on this subject soon, one reason why we get decay where molars meet is because we have already compromised the integrity of our teeth’s natural living crystal matrix. How? By having a filling placed in the chewing surface.
Damaging the natural arch strength of a tooth by drilling and filling a cavity on the chewing surface (called an occlusal filling) essentially breaks the crystalline arch structure of a molar, which sets up the tooth for future weakness on either side of that central filling. The sides of the tooth happen to be where our molars touch one another. In future articles, we will explore more on the progression that tooth decay takes over time.
The point is, flossing to stop decay from occurring between our teeth doesn’t have a lot of support from the research.
But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t floss! We simply have to understand why we are flossing.
The problem with flossing…
We think you’ll agree that one of the most dangerous habits is to assume we know how to do something correctly without reviewing to make sure we’re really on the right path.
For example, we all start off thinking that we know how to brush our teeth correctly, yet you’ve probably already learned from us that there are different ways to brush your teeth depending on what you want to accomplish.
The same goes for flossing.
We recently wrote an article titled, ‘How to avoid the 4 most common flossing mistakes’ that details what we consider to be the biggest problems with flossing.
Hands down, the biggest problem is ‘zombie flossing’. Flossing unconsciously can cause plenty of trauma to our gum tissue. Plus, by not paying attention while flossing, we miss a tremendous opportunity to gather info about the state of health of all the gum pockets around our mouths.
How to get the most benefit from flossing
Here are three helpful tips to make sure you are getting the most from flossing.
1. Take a piece of floss that is long enough so you can use a new segment of floss between each set of teeth.
2. Stop and look at the floss after each flossing point. Look for any discoloration on the floss. Any color (blood or yellowish color) is a clear sign you have an active infection in the gum pockets around those teeth.
3. Step three requires some courage, so be strong! Smell the floss. Yep, smell it after each contact you clean.
4. Feel as you floss for any pain, sensitivity or signs of swelling. Bottom line here is if you have any color on the floss (bleeding gums) or bad smell, you have an active infection in the gum pockets between those two teeth. And yes, if you found any smelly floss, that directly contributes to the smell from our mouths that we don’t notice but others do.
If you need a little more guidance on flossing, here’s a video that explains why flossing is such a critically important oral hygiene habit, and here’s a video that explains how to floss without damaging your gums.
(If you find color or smell on your floss, please watch this video that shows a simple strategy for how you can apply our HealThy Mouth Blend on floss and have a huge positive impact to stop the infection.)
Make note of what you find.
We created a free resource to easily track your progress improving your oral health. The OraWellness Mouth Map is a great way to have a quick, dated record where you found any bleeding, smells, etc.
Knowing where the trouble areas are in your mouth makes it SO much easier to create positive change in your oral health. Here’s an article that talks you through this simple discovery process, ‘The first step to dental self empowerment’. Or you can just skip the read and download our OraWellness Mouth Map here.
Floss consciously as a habit.
It’s sad to think of the number of people who have been mislead about flossing from the recent news. In fact, one of the articles had as a caption the question, “Is there evidence to back up claims that flossing is good for you?”
We didn’t review all the data the AP investigation reviewed to come to this claim, but what about the study that showed how regular flossing reduced the risk of heart attack (as measured by C reactive protein levels in the blood) in 100% of the people in the study?!
Hmm, 100% seems conclusive enough to warrant conscious flossing at least every other day.
For a deeper dive on this study, check out our article, ‘Does flossing really lower my risk of heart attack?‘
And for those of you who are floss-phobic, here’s what to do if you really, really don’t like to floss.
In the end, we conclude that flossing is still a healthy habit, provided you avoid the 4 most common flossing mistakes.
What about you? Do you floss regularly? Why? Why not? Let us know in the comments. We love to hear your thoughts, particularly on such silly inflammatory subjects as the relative health of flossing!
Ready to make massive positive change in your oral health? Download our FREE e-book “How to stop tooth decay and remineralize your teeth” today!
Helpful, Related Resources
How to avoid the 4 most common flossing mistakes [article]
Can some plaques actually help our teeth stay healthy? [article]
How to balance your oral flora [article]
How to brush your teeth to reduce gum disease [article and video tutorial]
WHY is flossing such a critically important oral hygiene habit? [video tutorial]
How to floss and NOT damage your gums [video tutorial]
How to use the HealThy Mouth Blend
The first step of dental self empowerment [article]
OraWellness mouth map [free resource]
Does flossing really lower my risk of a heart attack? [article]
What to do if you really, really don’t like to floss [article]