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How Good is Good Enough When It Comes to Flossing?

If the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s 2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is any indication, people in America really don’t like flossing. According to NHANES, only about 30 percent floss their teeth daily, with another 37 percent reporting they floss less frequently than daily, and 30 percent stating they never floss at all.


This wouldn’t be so scary if flossing weren’t such an important part of your oral care routine. In fact, did you know that flossing your teeth can remove about 40 percent of the plaque on your teeth? That means if you’re only brushing, you’re only cleaning slightly more than half of the exposed surfaces of your teeth! Worse yet, leaving those spaces uncleaned means you’re leaving your teeth vulnerable to all sorts of nasty bacteria, including s. mutans, the bacteria responsible for cavities.

Failing to floss regularly can also increase your risk of gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. Though gingivitis is extremely common (an estimated 47.2 percent of Americans have it), if left untreated, gingivitis can worsen and develop into more advanced stages of periodontitis. Periodontitis is a serious gum disease that can cause everything from inflamed gums to tissue and bone loss. Recent studies have also linked it to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke.

The good news is that flossing regularly reduces your risk of both periodontitis and gingivitis. In fact, gingivitis is even reversible with an amped-up oral care routine. But that routine has to include flossing. Thankfully, there are many options when it comes to dental floss. One popular flossing method is water flossing, as made popular by the brand Waterpik (in fact, you may even hear it referred to as "Waterpiking," even if the water flosser brand is different). But is water flossing good enough to fully replace traditional dental floss?

That depends on what you’re using it for. Water flossing has been shown to help reduce gingivitis and periodontitis inflammation, and studies have shown time and time again that it is better at reducing infection than not flossing at all. But whether it is better than dental floss is another story.

The truth is, nothing is better than string dental floss for cleaning between teeth. Water flossing can be a helpful accompaniment to flossing, but unless there is a medical reason, it should never replace string flossing.

Another excellent use for water flossing is for patients with braces or orthodontic appliances. Water flossing does work better than string floss at cleaning bits of food, plaque and debris from between braces brackets and wires; however, it is still recommended that you use string floss between your teeth, even while wearing braces. String flossing with braces can be a little more challenging, but you can use devices like floss threaders to help get around the wire. It may take a little longer, but it’s worth the extra time for a healthy, beautiful smile.

If you have any questions or concerns about using a water flosser, or how to make flossing with string floss more comfortable, please give Dr. Simpson a call at (910) 550-3959.

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