You might be flossing your teeth all wrong

Dental researchers say flossing properly can increase your chances of avoiding gum disease.

Flossing is a health habit that most of us love to hate. In survey after survey, Americans report low rates of daily flossing and admit to lying to their dentists about it. But dentists already know this by looking at their patients' mouths.

Dentists also know from experience that flossing and other methods of removing toxic plaque from the surface of teeth below the gum line can help prevent long-term dental disease.

a new study Journal of Oral Hygiene Supporting this, it was found that people who learned and adhered to proper flossing techniques showed fewer signs of potentially serious disease than those who did not.

“Flossing isn't just about putting a piece of floss between your teeth to remove it,” said David Basali, the study's lead author and a periodontist who performed the work during his residency at Tufts University School of Dentistry (TUSDM). food.

Figure out flossing

The study was prompted by a 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 issue of flossing, researchers 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.

The researchers trained half of the patients to floss using the so-called Modified Horizontal Vertical Flossing Technique (AHVFT) and asked them 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 know of to demonstrate that people who floss using a specific technique have fewer gum infections than people who just do their usual routine,” said co-author Paul Levi, who has taught periodontics for 20 years. Year.

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.

Flossing properly removes plaque and biofilm—the stuff you can’t see—not just that unsightly piece of spinach or pesky sesame seed.

“Food is just a piece of food,” Basari said. “Bacteria that accumulate around teeth can lead to inflammation, cavities, and dental disease.”

The AHVFT flossing technology used by the researchers is similar to that promoted by the American Dental Association. Good flossing techniques can also help avoid inadvertent damage to your gums.

“Sometimes we see patients injure their gum line by using incorrect flossing techniques, which can create cracks by cutting the gums and can lead to gum recession,” said co-author Irina F. Della, TUSDM faculty member Irina F. Dragan said. “AHVFT ensures that the floss conforms well to the sides of the teeth to prevent floss cuts.”

It didn't take long for the study subjects to get the hang of flossing correctly. At the end of the eight-week study, 88 percent of those who had received flossing instruction had mastered the skill.

The following are techniques recommended by dentists:

  • Wrap both ends of 15 to 18 inches of floss around the ring or middle fingers of both hands; there should be approximately 5 to 6 inches of floss left between the fingers.
  • Hold the available floss with the index finger and/or thumb of each hand. Use only 3/4 inch of floss between the fingers of each hand. These fingers will control the floss and prevent it from cutting into your gums.
  • Starting at one end of the upper or lower set of teeth, work the floss over the curved surface of the teeth, as if you were bending a “C” shape around the teeth.
  • Move the floss back and forth, up and down, as if you were drying your back with a towel.
  • Continue to the next tooth, flossing around both edges of the tooth.

Source: Tufts University

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