Brushing your teeth two times a day and using American Dental Association (ADA)-approved mouthwash were highly recommended to ensure good oral hygiene. While dentists also emphasized the importance of flossing, many of us have still not gotten into the habit.
Despite a report in 2016 which suggested there was insufficient evidence to prove the health benefits of flossing, dental experts still continue to support flossing as a part of a healthy routine.
“You can brush your teeth all day long until your hand is tired from holding the toothbrush, but there are still areas, like where your teeth touch together and the gum line in between, that the brush cannot reach,” explained Frederick Abeles, clinical instructor and regional director of the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies.
1. It could help with eliminating bad breath
An estimated quarter of the human population is said to experience bad breath which, in many cases, is an oral hygiene issue. When you do not dislodge food particles from your mouth properly, bacteria in the mouth tend to break them down into sulfur compounds, responsible for bad breath.
“Flossing allows you to go up to two millimeters under the gum tissue to reach where bacteria is colonizing,” said Krystal Hurteau, a dental hygienist and owner of Krystal Clean Smile Clinic in Canada. “The reason the floss smells [after you use it] is because that area is hard to reach and the bacteria is aged.”
2. It could prevent tooth decay, gum disease
“What we know to be true is there are a large number of bacteria naturally occurring in our mouth,” said Laura Sharbash, a dentist based in New Jersey. “These bacteria have been scientifically proven to create toxic byproducts linked to tooth decay and gum disease.”
The best intervention is to target the buildup of plaque (containing more than 500 bacterial species according to the ADA) which will turn into disease-promoting tartar if allowed to harden over time. A combination of flossing and brushing can prevent the development of tartar by continually removing the plaque while it is still soft.
3. It could be beneficial for diabetes patients
People who have poorly controlled blood sugar levels are more susceptible to oral infections. This is because glucose is present in our saliva which, at high levels, could help induce the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
According to studies, people who have type 2 diabetes are three times more likely to develop gingivitis (early stage gum disease) than people who don’t have diabetes. Furthermore, experts have noted this connection may be a two-way street as gum disease could, in turn, cause blood sugar to rise and make diabetes harder to control.