Why Your Child Needs to Floss

As dentists, we usually love it when oral health issues are front and center in the news—but not this time! Last week, we saw many people on social media sharing this report by the AP which claims there’s “little proof that flossing works.” Yikes!

No surprisingly, since the release of this viral article, patients are left wondering where we stand on the issue. We are happy to answer why your child needs to floss!

We still stand by the belief that flossing is highly beneficial.

To understand our position, let’s look at what the AP article actually does and doesn’t say. It basically states that the research done to date shows “little evidence” that flossing “prevents gum disease.” The problem lies in the methods of the testing done, not with flossing itself. The research studied for this article lasted very short periods of time, two weeks at most, which is not long enough for a cavity or gum disease to develop. It’s hard to measure what flossing helps prevent when the study doesn’t follow outcomes long enough for those who don’t floss to experience problems. As a result, we’re not surprised the research shows unclear evidence that flossing “works.”

What the same article admits, though, is that flossing has been proven to remove plaque and debris from between the teeth.

Plaque is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria. It clings to teeth and the gum line. Left to build up over an extended period of time, plaque hardens into tartar. Tartar is sticker and harder to remove than plaque, especially under the gum line. Indeed, tartar can only be removed with a special instrument used by a dental hygienist. If tartar is left to build up, it can lead to painful inflammation of the gums, gingivitis, and eventually gum disease.

Clearly, the key to prevent then is cleaning away plaque before it has time to build up and turn into tartar. If you don’t floss between teeth where you’re toothbrush can’t reach, you’re missing cleaning about 35% of each tooth’s surface! That’s room for a lot of plaque to hide and build up!
In short, flossing makes good, common sense.

Keeping teeth clean prevents tooth decay and gum disease; flossing helps clean those places your toothbrush can’t reach. Plus, we see the difference in gum health in our patients who floss versus those who don’t. Those who don’t floss regularly tend to have more pain and bleeding of the gums when our gentle hygienists clean and scale them. Thus, for us, it’s that simple. Flossing just makes sense! While we appreciate the need for longer studies to clear up the issue, we don’t feel this research review justifies not flossing. Flossing is inexpensive and requires little of our time. Why take chances?

Getting the most out of flossing.

Hopefully, we’ve convinced you to keep flossing! Here are some tips to make sure you get the best flossing results!

  1. Start with a quality floss or floss stick. Traditional string floss will give you the best results. If your child doesn’t quite have the coordination string floss takes, though, floss sticks are a good alternative. We recommend Plackers Gentle Fine dental flossers because they are not prone to shredding and breaking like other brands. If your child has braces, then we recommend Platypus Orthodontic Flossers. There are also water and air flossers available for those who really struggle to floss. (Click HERE to see how the Sonicare Airflosser–like the one Dr. Rachel shows in the video below– works.)
  2. Help your child floss. While floss sticks make it easier for older kids to floss independently, kids under the age of 8 typically need some help. Technique matters!
  3. Use the correct motion. Make the floss form a “c” shape around the tooth, then move the floss up and down. Don’t just “saw” back and forth between teeth with the floss.
  4. Go down to the gum line. Remember, to get the most out of flossing, we want to make sure it helps remove plaque from the gum line. Make sure to gently press the floss up against the tooth, down between the tooth and gum line. Remember, healthy gums don’t bleed.
  5. Floss between all teeth. Even teeth with wide gaps can benefit from getting their sides and gum lines extra clean with the help of floss!

Watch this video to see how to get that “C” shape when you floss and how to use a floss stick correctly!

If you’d like more help with learning how to floss your child’s teeth correctly, don’t hesitate to contact our office! We and our staff of hygienists are here to help educate you on the best oral health practices for your child! You can call our office at (330) 425-1885 or contact us online at www.greatbeginningspd.com

Sincerely,
Dr. Laura Adelman, DMD
Dr. Rachel Rosen, DDS

*Disclaimer: Our blog posts are not to be taken as medical advice. They are for informational purposes only.*

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