I confess, I’m not a very dedicated flosser. Throughout my life I have had numerous dentists lambast me about flossing.
“Do you floss?” “You are not flossing often enough!”
“Don’t use a floss pick, use the thread! It works much better!”
“Let me show you the right way you’re supposed to floss!”
These are some of the comments I’ve heard over the years. In my dentists’ collective opinions, my flossing was never quite up to snuff.
One dentist gave me a plastic tool, called Floss Fingers, designed to wrap floss around to make it easier to floss. Knowing that I hate flossing, my dental hygienist finally talked me into using a HydroFloss. HydroFloss and Waterpik are the power-washers of flossing world. I even add a mouth rinse containing hydrogen peroxide and alcohol to boost the HydroFloss’ effectiveness.
According to the American Dental Association, it’s not enough to brush your teeth twice a day. You also need to floss. To hear my dentists talk, flossing is next to Godliness! Flossing is the way you prove you’re a true believer. It’s like going to church on Wednesday night. You do it to show you are committed to your faith.
My wife is a true believer. She is obsessive about flossing. She carries floss everywhere she goes; she never leaves the house without it. My wife singlehandedly keeps the floss manufacturers in business. Whenever my dentist gives me a little parting goodie bag that contains a toothbrush, a travel sized toothpaste and a small roll of floss in a little travel dispenser, I always give the floss to my wife because I know how happy it makes her to have it in her purse. One day I bought her some cinnamon-flavored floss. She loves cinnamon. And floss. What a combination! She loved it.
A study from years ago even tried to tie gum disease, and by logical extension — not flossing — to hardening of the arteries leading to premature heart disease. Later experts found it wasn’t true. And that’s not all. The New York Times recently published an analysis of flossing from the academic literature. Apparently, a dozen randomized trials with control groups found very little evidence that flossing reduces plaque. An article in Slate argues that flossing seems to be an American obsession promoted by Big Floss. The slate writer emailed the author of a study on flossing from the Netherlands. Daily flossing has long been a recommendation of the American Dental Association. Dr. van der Weijden replied: “There is no scientific evidence to support this recommendation should be given to the general public.”
Dr. van der Weijden agreed that people who develop gum disease should clean between their teeth. “But based on our work … wood sticks would appear to be the most efficient tool, and in the case of open interdental spaces, interdental brushes are the first choice.”
Basically a tooth pick is better than flossing. I’m considering sending this study to every dentists I’ve seen over the last 50 years.