Is Flossing Your Teeth a Waste of Time?: Dentists
Nag Us About It. Scientists Insist It Prevents Heart Disease. But
Now an Expert Says They've All Got It Wrong...
Visits to the
dentist are never pleasant. Not only do we have our pearly whites
scraped, prodded and drilled, we then have to endure a telling-off
for not having flossed.
it will keep our teeth sparkling and free from decay, as well as
keeping our gums healthy. Regular flossing has even been said to
protect us from heart disease.
Yet, for most
of us who try wrestling with the tape, it only results in a cricked
neck and bleeding gums.
And now, according
to a provocative new book, Kiss
Your Dentist Goodbye, it seems that dedicated followers
of flossing could actually be wasting their time.
The book is
causing waves because its written by U.S.-based Dr Ellie Phillips,
who was among the first women dentists to train at Guys Hospital
She says that
flossing and that goes for whichever gizmo, gadget or bit
of tape you choose to use will do nothing to reduce your
risk of tooth decay.
she says, is on her side. Only one study has shown a benefit, and
that involved a group of schoolchildren who did not floss themselves,
but instead had their teeth flossed by a hygienist five days a week
for two years.
And a study
published in the British Dental Journal in 2006 found no difference
in the number of cavities suffered by adults who flossed and those
who did not.
So is Dr Phillips
right? Surprisingly, it seems she may be but only up to a
fairness, there is no evidence that flossing is effective in preventing
tooth decay in the long run, says Dr Graham Barnby, a dentist
from Marlow, Bucks, who is also a member of the Simply Health Advisory
Research Panel, which analyses the latest research and medical thinking.
a sense, she does have a point. Yet although the benefits of flossing
may be limited with tooth decay, flossing does have a role in the
prevention of gum disease.
occurs when acid in the mouth eats away at the teeth. This acid
is found in foods, but is mainly produced when bacteria in the mouth
digest sugar hence the reason sweets rot our
on the other hand, is caused by plaque a film of bacteria
on the teeth which, if not removed with brushing, irritates the
gums, causing them to bleed and recede.
If left, the
plaque hardens into tartar, which irritates the underlying bone
of the gums and, in severe cases, can lead to wobbly teeth.
have even linked gum disease to heart disease, as the same bacteria
found in the mouth have also been found in the heart.
an independent dental hygienist based in Brighton, who is nominated
for hygienist of the year, says effective flossing should help reduce
both tooth cavities and gum disease.
that the reason studies have shown it to have little effect is that
too few people actually do it properly.
of those who do use floss (which I believe to be around five per
cent of the population), dont use it effectively, so it is
of minimal benefit to them, she says.
plaque, you need to hook the floss like a C around the tooth, so
it hooks out the plaque from between the contact points of the teeth.
bad flossing to trying to clean a bottle neck with a piece of string
floating in the middle which, in effect, is all most people
Dr Nigel Carter,
chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, says flossing
is definitely not a waste of time provided youre doing
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