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It made the news: it isn’t clear if flossing helps. Is there truth behind it?

Why is flossing being questioned?

The government removed flossing from its Dietary Guidelines for Americans because the evidence was missing. As it turns out, a guideline can only be added based on scientific evidence.

Shorter studies have shown good results, but the dental community hasn’t run a long-term study. However based on those results, many dentists still say to floss.

Dental health in America

More than 75 percent of Americans have some form of gum disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bad cases of gum disease can harm bone structure. And the damage can’t be fixed.

There’s a link between mouth and body that many people don’t think about. These stats show just how important your mouth is to your overall health:

  • From a study of 339,000 people with gum disease, all had one of five conditions: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease (stroke), rheumatoid arthritis or pregnancy, according to an American Journal of Preventive Medicine study.
  • Mouth problems cost Americans $113.5 billion in 2014, says the American Dental Association. This came second only to heart conditions.
  • Studies have shown a link between gum disease with the risk of stroke and heart disease according to the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine.

How to avoid trouble

The good news is that many dental problems can be avoided with good oral hygiene and a healthy diet.

First, let’s have a quick chat about cavities and gum disease. As we know, the mouth is full of bacteria: both good and bad. And when bacteria hangs around too long, whether in plaque or tartar, there’s a higher chance of tooth decay and gum disease.

Has your dentist talked about plaque? It’s a sticky film that coats a tooth. When not removed by brushing and flossing, it can harden and form tartar. Bacteria is found in both plaque and tartar and can harm the gums. That causes the soft tissue around the teeth to swell. And when swelling and inflammation doesn’t go away, it can lead to gum disease.

Brushing removes most bacteria. But it can’t reach all of it. Flossing reaches more places in your mouth. And the more bacteria you remove, the better.

Your diet affects your mouth too. Some foods and drinks are better than others. Stay away from ones that are highly acidic, like pop. They are more likely to cause cavities.

Cavities form when the sugar from your food turns into an acid. Acid eats away your tooth enamel. This can form a hole (or cavity) in your tooth. But don’t worry! There are also foods that can help fight cavities.

Choose this: nuts, fruits, vegetables, dairy and water
Not that: dried fruit, potato chips, candy (especially sour candy), pop and juice

Good results

One thing is clear. It’s good to take care of your teeth. You’ll save money and improve your total health. Here’s some proof:

  • Getting help for gum disease early can save money. It can cut yearly medical costs up to 40 percent for people with diabetes and heart disease, based on a report from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
  • Pregnant women with gum disease can reduce their risk of an early birth by 84 percent when it’s treated early, according to a study from the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • People who get treatment for gum disease are less likely to need treatment for diabetes and heart disease according to the same study from the University of Pennsylvania.

So what should you do?

Good brushing and flossing help prevent cavities and gum disease. Talk to your dentist. Ask what's best for your oral health routine.

Need help finding your dentist? Visit us online to see if your dentist is in network or find a dental plan that works for you. We’re here to help.