To Floss or Not to Floss?

I’m not sure how many of you pay attention to dentistry topics in the news, but recently you may have heard reports that question whether existing scientific research support the oral health benefits associated with flossing. The bottom line for dentists and patients alike is that a lack of strong evidence does NOT equate to a lack of effectiveness. As a dentist, I strive to advise my patients on what the best oral hygiene practices are for each individual because ultimately, I want what’s best for each of you!


The news story also implied that by not including flossing in the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines, the government has changed its stance on flossing. However, this is simply not the case. The new guidelines made a deliberate decision to focus on food and nutrient intake (i.e., added sugar to the average American diet), which is another topic to discuss on a different day.


Flossing is a very important oral hygiene practice. Tooth decay and gum disease can develop when food and plaque are allowed to build up on teeth and along the gum line. Professional cleaning, tooth brushing, and cleaning between your teeth (flossing and the use of other tools such as interdental brushes) have been shown to disrupt and remove plaque.


According to the American Dental Association (ADA), interdental cleaners such as floss are an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums. I cannot advocate for flossing enough! Cleaning between your teeth removes plaque that can lead to cavities or gum disease from the areas where a toothbrush can’t reach. Interdental cleaning is proven to help remove debris between teeth that can contribute to plaque buildup.


Did you know that more than 500 bacterial species can be found in dental plaque? Some of these microbes are good for your mouth and some are bad for your mouth. Together with food debris, water, and other components, the plaque buildup around the teeth and on the gum line will contribute to disease in teeth and gums.


Whether you use floss or another interdental cleaner is a personal preference, but it’s very important to understand the proper technique for each tool so that it is effective. Make sure you ask a staff member at Bismarck Family Dental regarding any questions that you may have the next time you visit our office about how to use interdental cleaners to ensure efficacy!


To maintain good oral health, Dr. Van Erem and myself (Dr. Holzer), along with the American Dental Association, continue to recommend brushing for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, cleaning between teeth once a day with an interdental cleaner, and regular dental checkups to our office.


To learn more about flossing and other interdental cleaners, please visit

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