Is Flossing Your Teeth Really Important?

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Despite a rogue news report a few years ago, the benefits of regular flossing and brushing have generally been widely accepted. So, why do only 30% of Americans report flossing daily and even more (32%) admit to never flossing at all?

Most likely it’s because while the obvious benefits of regular flossing are worthwhile – gum health and fresh breath – they’re also relatively intangible. Let’s be honest. Possessing healthy pink gums doesn’t exactly give you bragging rights just yet, but if more people understood the true ramifications of poor oral health it definitely would.

Oral health is much more than pearly whites or fresh breath and lack of good oral hygiene, which includes flossing, can lead to health issues that go beyond your gumline. The human body is well-connected and there’s a strong link between oral health and your overall health. But where does flossing come in? When food particles build up between teeth, they attract bacteria which forms plaque. Plaque leads to tooth decay and gum disease, causing inflammation in the body. Inflammation is definitely not your friend. If you thought dental fillings and bleeding gums were the only inconveniences at stake, then hold on because flossing is about to take a very serious turn.

Regular flossing can help to prevent:

  • Cavities and tooth loss: We all have mouths full of bacteria which, while unsettling, generally isn’t of concern, as most are benign. However, two strands of bacteria that are likely to create issues include streptococcus and porphyromonas gingivalis.  Both of these types of bacteria lead to tooth decay and loss. Streptococcus feeds on sugars and starches in the mouth, producing acid that erodes tooth enamel and increases the risk of tooth decay. Porphyromonas gingivalis is associated with periodontitis, a painful, progressive gum disease that leads to tooth loss.
  • Weight gain: Studies have shown a potential link between gum disease and obesity. The culprit isn’t calories, but inflammation, which puts stress on the body and deregulates how fat is stored. When fat cells are inflamed, their ability to control insulin is impacted and glucose gets stored as fat instead of being used for energy.
  • Heart disease: Not only does inflammation increase the risk of obesity, it also increases your chances for developing clots and blockages that lead to heart attacks. In fact, people with gum disease are twice as likely to deal with coronary artery disease. One theory is that periodontal disease may cause inflammation in arteries and brain tissue, generating greater amounts of clotting compounds. A couple of extra minutes added to your nighttime routine doesn’t sound so bad now, huh?
  • Dementia: A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s had more of the bacteria associated with gum disease than did those belonging to their cognitively healthy peers. It’s thought that the bacteria associated with poor dental hygiene may spread to the brain through the cranial nerve, which connects to the jaw through the bloodstream.
  • Pneumonia: When there’s an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, it can be inhaled into the lungs creating respiratory problems such as pneumonia.
  • Joint pain: Regular flossing can also help to ward off those achy joints. In a study of people with gum disease and arthritis, researchers found the same bacteria in subjects’ mouths and joints, leading experts to believe that bacteria in inflamed gums can enter the bloodstream and find their way into joint fluid.

We get it!  At the end of the day the last thing you want to do is thread floss through your teeth, but this one is a non-negotiable. Check out the American Dental Association’s video to ensure you’re flossing correctly.  If focusing on what daily flossing promotes isn’t enough to motivate you, think of everything it helps prevent.  Please feel free to contact our office with any questions.

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