This summer flossing became a hot topic. The Associated Press published a report noting that there is little scientific research backing flossing’s effectiveness against caries and gum disease. Due to this lack of evidence, the federal government removed the recommendation to floss from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In response to this decision, the American Dental Association stated that “the bottom line for dentists and patients is that a lack of strong evidence doesn’t equate to a lack of effectiveness.” The American Dental Association still recommends flossing at least once a day.
Here are some fun facts about floss. In 1815, dental floss was invented by a dentist in New Orleans. He told his patients to use a thin thread to clean between their teeth. A little over eighty years later in 1898, Johnson and Johnson patented dental floss. At this time dental floss was made of silk. In the 1940s, however, floss started being made from nylon, instead of silk. Finally, in 2000 the National Flossing Council started National Flossing Day.
As an orthodontist, I see first hand what not flossing can do when people have braces on their teeth. Plaque is the sticky film that collects at the gum line as a result of eating. This plaque layer has lots of bacteria. If the bacteria is allowed to stay on your teeth, it can lead to gingival bleeding, inflammation, and tenderness. In addition, bacteria causes bad breath and cavities. Brushing is able to remove the plaque and bacteria on the front of your teeth, but toothbrushes are not good at cleaning between your teeth. This is where floss is beneficial. The bacteria sits between your teeth and will break down your tooth surface to cause a cavity. Floss mechanically removes this harmful bacteria from between your teeth and beneath the gums where your toothbrush cannot always reach, especially when you have braces.
Flossing with braces is more time consuming, but it is essential to having that beautiful smile when you get your braces off. Carefully thread the floss under your wire between two brackets. Next, you floss like normal. Gently go up and down between the teeth. When you have finished flossing between these two teeth, remove the floss from under the wire and start on the next two teeth. You can also ask your orthodontist for some floss threaders to help.