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    Flossing Gut Check: How to Floss and Why it is Still Important

    Flossing. It’s the part of dental care that a lot of us just ignore, and now the Associated Press has reported there may not be the benefit we all have thought. Yet, oral health experts still agree it is an important part of your health routine. Here’s why:

    A recent study reported on by CNN showed that 32.4 percent of adults reported no flossing, 37.3 percent reported less than daily flossing, and 30.3 percent reported daily flossing in the past week. That means that nearly one-third of adults in America don’t floss their teeth.

    But flossing removes food between the teeth and prevents the buildup of plaque. According to study author Dr. Duong Nguyen, who works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you don't floss every day, over time the plaque will turn into tartar, which can't be removed at home with toothpaste.

    Not only that, but tartar can eat away at the tooth and gums that surround the tooth, breaking it down and creating pockets where the tooth becomes loose and eventually falls out, he said.

    What evidence supports flossing?

    The AP accurately reported that there is not a whole lot of published research – evidence – to support claims that flossing makes a difference on our oral health. But, what AP doesn’t quite consider is that researchers agree that a lack of evidence proving something works does not mean it doesn’t work. It just means there hasn’t been enough research done in the way researchers require it for publication.

    Think about parachutes. There is very weak scientific evidence that parachutes work because there has never been a clinical trial comparing what happens when one group jumps with one and another group jumps without a chute. But that does not mean parachutes are not effective. It is the same for floss!

    “It would be unethical for researchers to study what happens over time to a group of people who do not floss because that group would be worsening their oral health,” said Dr. Robert Compton, chief dental officer for Delta Dental of Massachusetts. “We don’t allow people to develop diseases as part of research, and that helps protect every patient.”

    Instead, Dr. Compton suggests we look to the best standards of care established from clinical evidence and what dentists see every day among their patients – flossing creates a healthier mouth.

    We know the easiest way to prevent cavities is to keep your mouth clean a​nd minimize plaque. Tooth decay and gum disease can occur anywhere that food bits and plaque accumulate. The easiest spot for this is between teeth, since there is very little space for the toothbrush bristles to remove or even attempt to remove any debris.

    That is why flossing or use of an inter-dental brush is recommended - to best remove the food debris that would remain and turn to plaque between the gums and the teeth where a toothbrush cannot fit.  

    Teach a Man to Fish – or Floss

    Now that you know how important flossing is, you need to know how to do it correctly. And so do your kids. So let’s start at the beginning.

    Here’s a fun way to teach your kids how to floss correctly (and you can check your own technique while you’re at it):
    First, grab a large Duplo-style building block from the toy box and put modeling clay between the pegs. The clay simulates plaque and food stuck between teeth.

    Next, have kids use floss or yarn to remove the clay, showing them proper techniques for flossing.

    Here are a few tips to share with your kids as they practice with the block and clay:
    • Get between each set of teeth.
    • Curve floss into a “C” shape against one “tooth” and slide it up and down, making sure to clean the space between the “gum” and the “tooth.”
    • Now do the same to the other “tooth” in the space.
    • Move to the next set of “teeth” and do it all over again.
    • Don’t forget the back sides!