For as long as I can recall I have been flossing, albeit more regularly at some times than at others. I used floss occasionally before going to dental school and more intentionally afterwards. I maintain and stress to my patients that flossing teeth does, in fact, matter. I know some people who only floss when they feel a bit of food stuck in between their teeth. I like to refer to this practice as “flossing for cause”. Certainly some is better than none at all so, even if you are not flossing after brushing at bedtime each night, try for a few times per week.
Recent news reports have indicated that, after decades of recommending daily flossing, the federal government (Depts of Agriculture and Health and Human Services) has changed the dietary guidelines for Americans to no longer include any mention of flossing. This is apparently due to the absence of randomized clinical trials showing its effectiveness.
Here’s the thing. Flossing removes trapped food particles and bacterial film that can form plaque on the tooth surface. Plaque can turn to tartar, which requires professional dental cleaning. While this may sound like an ideal plan for a dental practice, that cleaning can become more difficult (and possibly uncomfortable) with the tartar buildup and can cause gum tissue to become swollen, inflamed and even bleed. This is known as gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease. More slow to develop, but much more severe is periodontal disease. It can take anywhere from say five to twenty years to appear, but it’s a slow breakdown of the bone. Even in the absence of significant data (studies would require following a patient’s progress for years), I am not changing my view or my recommendation.
Flossing is imperative for cleaning hard-to-reach spots on teeth, thus reducing the chances of gum disease and tooth decay. Brushing alone cannot effectively clean in those tight spaces. Whether it is waxed or unwaxed, flavored or not, the choice is solely your preference and more importantly, which type you will be more likely to actually use.