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Don’t Floss? Your loss says dental hygienist

In light of recent reports, the Dental Department felt compelled to weigh-in in the defense of one of the most important homecare devices available for oral health… you guessed it folks: floss! What would dear Dr. Levi Parmly, the inventor of dental floss, say in response to the recent attack on his beloved interproximal aide?! Who knew a little “string” could cause such riot!


The big question seems to be: why flossing is recommended as part of a daily home care regimen? The answer is simple: plaque. Dental plaque is a living biofilm made up of numerous bacterial strains. Even seconds after brushing our teeth, the biofilm forms on the tooth surface as a result of glycoproteins in our saliva. Unfortunately, dental plaque utilizes these glycoproteins to adhere to the tooth’s surface, and the longer the dental plaque is left undisturbed (through brushing and flossing), the stronger the bacteria will get, and the greater the damage to both the tooth surface (a cavity) and/or its surrounding tissue (gum disease).

To help understand the strength of plaque, think of a vase of flowers. After a few days, if you were to discard the flowers and dump out the water, there would likely be a grayish, slippery, slime left inside the vase. You could rinse the vase several times, but the best way to breakup this slime is to disrupt it mechanically, or scrub the vase. In the mouth, dental plaque forms the same slime layer, and it too needs to be “broken-up” through daily brushing and flossing. With brushing alone, half of the tooth surface is being missed, allowing buildup of plaque in-between the teeth and gums. This buildup may lead to tooth decay and inflammation of the surrounding gum tissue (or gingivitis), just to name a few…

In short, the benefits of daily flossing far outweigh the risk of leaving plaque behind in the mouth, and like all things, dental floss will work, if you work it.