Dental Myth Busters: Flossing doesn't matter

Welcome to a new series on our blog…Dental Myth Busters! In these articles we will take a look at many of the urban legends about teeth. In our first article we will tackle a recent news article about flossing. It was stated that there has been no significant evidence to prove that flossing works to reduce cavities or gum disease. In this week’s article, we will be delving into the Myth that Flossing doesn’t work!

Did you know the bacteria that makes up dental plaque is the largest cause for dental problems such as cavities and gum disease? In fact many of the things we recommend you do at home is to reduce the amount of plaque that is on your teeth to keep your teeth and gums healthy. By brushing your teeth, you are physically removing the plaque from the tooth surface. The same can be said with flossing, when you floss you want to be sure you are pulling the floss against the tooth in order to physically remove the plaque that is between your teeth.

Since plaque is the biggest trouble maker in your mouth, we will use this as a measuring stick in our experiment. First we will measure the amount of plaque in the mouth by using Disclosing solution. This disclosing solution is bright pink and adheres to the bacteria, making it easy to see. We will then take three Plaque Scores. A Plaque Score is a percentage of plaque on each tooth. We will take an initial score, a score after brushing and one after brushing and flossing. We repeated this procedure for 10 trials. While this is a relatively small sample size when you are talking about scientific data, it will give us a good idea on some initial data.

Here are the results we found from our ten trials:

Average Starting Plaque Score: 58%

Average Plaque Score after Brushing: 23.7%

Average Plaque Score after Brushing and Flossing: 12.3%

Percentage Difference between Brushing and Flossing Scores: 49%

Don’t think flossing works? The total plaque reduction between brushing and flossing was 49 percent! That is a big difference and even though this is a small sample size it is very clear that flossing has quite the effect. I would call this myth busted.

Not convinced? Try your own flossing challenge at home. Floss every day for 2 weeks. At the start you may notice a few areas of bleeding when you floss. This bleeding is a sign of gingivitis and the inflammation around the gums. As your gums get healthier, you will notice less bleeding. Generally after 2 weeks you will notice a big difference in the amount of bleeding. If you still have bleeding be sure to consult your dentist as you may have some underlying dental conditions.

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