Does flossing your teeth really prevent cavities?

You hear the same advice often: brush and floss often to help avoid tooth decay.  But most of us just don’t like flossing our teeth!  In fact, 36 percent of Americans would rather do something unpleasant – like clean the toilet – than floss their teeth. 

To floss or not to floss?

A recent Associated Press report revealed that flossing may not be necessary.  In fact, some studies show that flossing doesn’t even have proven health benefits. And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently removed flossing from their guidelines for good oral health.

But dentists aren’t so quick to dismiss flossing.  Most dentists believe that people who brush and floss regularly are less likely to have bleeding gums or the gum inflammation known as gingivitis. Food that is left between teeth cannot always be removed by brushing. And that trapped food can lead to inflammation and decay.

Good dental hygiene helps prevent disease and decay

About half of all Americans have gum disease or periodontal disease. That chronic inflammation happens when the bacteria in the plaque on your teeth causes swelling and irritation below the gum line.  This can lead to receding gums and eventual tooth loss. Gum disease has also been linked to diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and even heart disease.

Despite the constant reminders to heed good dental health habits, one in four adults has cavities and about half of all teenagers in the United States have cavities. Cavity risk level is based not only on oral care routines but also diet, overall health and other factors, which is why it’s important to see both your dentist and physician regularly for complete oral health and overall health reviews.

Correct tooth brushing and overall careful oral care is the best way to avoid tooth decay because brushing removes bacteria from the mouth and prevents the formation of damaging plaque. Mouthwash can also remove bacteria, as well as freshen your breath.

Is flossing really necessary?

Despite other suggestions to the contrary, the American Academy of Periodontology and the American Dental Association do recommend flossing. And many dentists confirm that patients who brush and floss regularly have healthier gums and keep their teeth longer.

Regardless of your methods, it is important to ensure that bacteria and plaque do not flourish in your mouth, as these lead to decay, gum disease and other oral health concerns. Keep your mouth clean and free of bacteria with a combination of brushing, flossing and mouthwash, and visit your dentist regularly for check-ups.

Does thinking about going to the dentist give you anxiety? Does the idea of a routine dental visit, cavity filling or root canal treatment make you cringe?  Do you worry about the discomfort from dental injections used to numb the mouth prior to dental procedures?  Talk to your dentist.  Many dentists have tips, tricks and tools available to help you deal with dental anxiety.  And many dentists use the DentalVibe tool to completely eliminate the pain that can go along with dental shots during fillings, root canals and other dental procedures.  Talk to your dentist about your concerns. Your oral care team can help you develop an oral care routing that’s right for you.  They can also help you conquer your dental anxiety and prevent the discomfort associated with dental procedures.  That’s something to smile about!

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