You Could Be Flossing All Wrong, If You’re Even Flossing at All

The study was published in the August issue of Journal of Oral Hygiene, was prompted by a high-profile 2016 Associated Press article that focused on the lack of evidence supporting the long-term efficacy of flossing. Dental professionals responded by pointing out that because severe periodontal disease takes years to develop, a controlled study spanning decades would be nearly impossible and unethical.

“Research conducted after the 2016 AP story showed that most people do not floss correctly,” Basali said. And previous flossing research didn't take technology into account. With people dragging floss out of their mouths in any way, it's no wonder researchers today consider the data unreliable.

To address the flossing problem, a Tufts University research team looked at one sign of underlying disease: bleeding gums. Researchers examined 36 patients suffering from gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease. About half of adults in the United States have some degree of gingivitis; a symptom is gums that bleed when probing or brushing. Half of the patients were trained to floss using the so-called Horizontal Vertical Flossing Technique (AHVFT) and were asked to record their daily flossing. Others continue with their usual flossing methods and routines.

After eight weeks, the group that received instructions on flossing techniques and adhered to daily care had a 70% reduction in gum bleeding, while the control group had a 30% reduction.

“This is the first study we are aware of to demonstrate that people who floss using a specific technique have fewer gum infections than people who just do their usual routine,” said Paul Levi (D66, DG71), co-author of the book .

A quick look at what's going on in your mouth: The bacteria that live there metabolize nutrients in your saliva and fluids in the crevices of your gums. These bacteria secrete sticky, toxic waste called plaque and biofilm, which can lead to decay and gum inflammation. Among other things, this can cause periodontal disease, which affects the gums and bone, threatens the stability of the teeth, and can interfere with the overall health of the body.

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