Dr. Magryta: Why floss?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 26, 2019

Flossing has been a cornerstone of dentistry for years, yet very few Americans floss on a daily basis. Do we really need to?

The American Dental Association recommends it primarily for cavity and gum disease prevention. The recommendation is to floss daily. Some dentists actually think that flossing is more important than brushing because it gets to the hard to reach places in between the teeth and gums that a tooth brush is ineffective at reaching.

This mechanical disruption prevents plaques from building up on the tooth. These plaques are biofilms made up of bacterial colonies that ferment our food debris into acid that damages the enamel and causes gum disease.

Healthy gums do not bleed when brushed or flossed because the body does not sense a threat from bacterial biofilm in well cared for teeth. The body then has no need to send extra blood there for inflammatory or infectious reasons.

Our mouths are filled with bacteria that are good and bad for us. Our mouth has its own micro biome that evolves over time from birth. If we eat well and take care of our teeth, we support a healthy mouth flora. If not, then the bugs become unfriendly to us.

The unhealthy, poorly cared for gums do bleed often. This allows a portal for the bad bacteria to get into the blood stream and travel far and wide. Studies have shown that these bacteria translocate to the heart tissue and cause coronary artery damage and are a leading player in heart disease.

It is clear to me that this repeating theme of translocated bacteria from the mouth, gut, lungs, etc. is a major driving force for poor health.

Unhealthy gums are common, according to dentists. What to do?

• First and most important: eat healthy in an anti-inflammatory diet style as it promotes the right bacteria everywhere.
• Floss daily or twice daily and expect your gums to stop bleeding over the first month.
• Brush your teeth twice daily for further cavity fighting power.
• Drink mostly water and not sugared beverages.
• You need to floss properly. From Dr. Peter Lockhart, professor and chair emeritus of the Department of Oral Medicine at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte:

“A lot of people think the important thing is to move the floss through the contact point between the two teeth, but in fact, floss can be somewhat destructive if you’re not careful. It’s very thin, and you can cut the delicate tissues with it.

“You should saw the floss through the contact point — not snap it through, because on the other side it will lacerate the gum tissue and it will hurt. Gently bring the floss toward the base of the tooth, and then pull it tight against the tooth, and bring it away from the tooth’s base.

“So you’re pulling away from the gum, and you’re getting the floss down at the base of the pocket. That’s what scrapes the plaque off.”

Great advice, Dr. M

Dr. Chris Magryta is a physician at Salisbury Pediatric Associates. Contact him at newsletter@salisburypediatrics.com

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