Floss is in the news—but not in the way we hoped. A recent AP article slammed string, claiming the evidence to support flossing to prevent gum disease is “weak and unreliable.” Many dental professionals partially agree: they think flossing is an affordable and easy way to remove plaque, a major cause of both tooth decay and gum disease, if done properly and regularly.
And the research backs their theory: A 2006 study recruited 808 kids, ages 4-13, to test at-home flossing versus professional flossing. Over the course of 18 months, kids who were flossed professionally five days a week had a 40% decrease in cavity risk. Those who flossed at-home or received intermittent professional flossing experienced no change. The moral of the story? When flossing is done correctly, oral health excels. That’s partly because brushing alone can still leave food particles and plaque in hard-to-reach areas, like the spaces between teeth and under the gum line.
Use traditional floss the right way, or try one of these dental floss alternatives:
- Air Flosser – An air flosser shoots rapid bursts of air and water to remove bacteria biofilm between your teeth. Using only a teaspoon of liquid, an air flosser gets its plaque-fighting power from microdroplets. Pro tip: The liquid you put in it doesn’t have to be water! You can also fill the flosser with your favorite mouthwash.
- Water Flosser – This fountain-style flosser spouts streams of water to remove plaque between teeth. Water flossing can remove around 10% more plaque than traditional flossing, according to the American Journal of Orthodontics. Bonus for those with braces and bridges: A water flosser can get rid of food particles that string can’t reach.
Even in the absence of solid evidence to support flossing, if you follow this simple practice each day, along with basic good habits—like daily brushing, using a fluoride toothpaste, eating a healthy diet and not smoking, and of course, getting regular dental check-ups—you are making strides toward preventing gum disease and tooth decay.