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Do We Need To Floss?

Do We Need To Floss In Dental Couture

Truth Or Lie: Do We Need To Floss?

“Flossing”: who on earth even named it that …? It sounds like something unidentifiable found in your belly button. (One of the world’s most hilarious terms, by the way. Along with ‘pants’.) There might not be such resistance to flossing and what you do with it, were called something else.

‘Keenadent’ or ‘interdoodle’. ‘Twotoothidate’.

“I’m good with keenadenting. I do it every day.”
“Can you pick me up some interdoodle? I’ve run out!”
“Yeah. Dentist says I don’t twotoothidate properly. Actually, I don’t do it at all.”

The suggestion was for it to be called something else – which doesn’t necessarily translate to something better. Just anything. Anything even as equally ridiculous as the three proposed is still preferable to ‘floss’. Who even wants to say the word, really; let alone do it. It has to be one of the ugliest words in the English language: right up there with mouthfeel, pustule and cozzie livs.

Flossing is an aspect of oral health maintenance that desperately needs redefinition branding, an integrated marketing campaign and a launch date.

It also requires a bit of discussion.

Most of us have been told our entire lives that to floss is a staple of a healthy mouth, and something that needs to be done daily. Apparently using a toothbrush only cleans three of the five tooth surfaces; and cleaning between each tooth is critical in the prevention of gum disease, cavities, and bad breath.

Dentists often to advised it be done after brushing; recent studies have a different view.

The Journal of Periodontology published results in 2018 suggesting that there is significant benefit in flossing first.

The study revealed a significant increase of fluoride concentration between the teeth, and a notable reduction in plaque. Dentists generally agree that whether it’s before or after brushing, is nowhere near as important as the doing of it. Statistically, for the 10% of the population that floss, and for those wanting to abide by the latest oral health findings, floss then brush.

Nineteenth century New Orleans dentist Levi Spear Parmly (1790-1859) was highly influential in the field of preventative measures and practices relating to oral disease. Since patriarchy prevails, and we like designating markers for exploration or discovery, Parmly is known as the father of two things: dental hygiene, and children’s dentistry.

He was honoured in both the US and Europe where he taught and practiced.

‘A Practical Guide to the Management of Teeth’ was his first published work in 1819, followed two years later by ‘Lectures on the Natural History and Management of the Teeth’. Over a hundred pages, Parmly outlines the cause and prevention of the proliferation of decay, as well as “various operations, never hitherto suggested, for the preservation of diseased teeth.”

Levi Spear Parmly achieved great financial success, and kindly used his time and money to offer free dental services to children. Way before there was knowledge about dental plaque and oral bacteria, he maintained that the cause of dental caries was foreign material on the surface of the tooth. This was his major contribution to dental science; along with emphasising the importance of teeth cleaning in the prevention of tooth decay.

Accredited as the inventor of modern dental floss in 1815, were this posed as a personal statement offered for a team of three people to question over five minutes, it would be a BBC One Would I Lie To You segment. The ensuing convoluted story would likely have the team decide that what they’d been told was true: whereupon the interrogated panellist would buzzer-reveal that it was, in fact, a lie.

Born in New Hampshire, and spending most of his life in Massachusetts, Asahel Milton Shurtleff (1832-1915) had the first dental floss patent granted to him in 1874. Certainly he wasn’t a dentist, nor does it seem that he had any medical background. The scant information available suggests that Asahel M. Shurtleff liked inventing stuff, and scored himself more than one patent.

What could be true is for Parmly to have come up with the notion of flossing, and Shurtleff to patent it almost 80 years later. (Which interestingly, is the time it takes for dental floss to break down.)

Dental floss packages of today very closely resemble Shurtleff’s impressive original design. Called ‘An Improved Pocket Thread Carrier and Cutter’ eight years after his patent, Shurtleff’s company also made unwaxed silk floss available in 1882 although again, like today, flossing wasn’t a particularly popular private pastime.

Silk thread was expensive. It took Dr Charles C. Bass and World War II for nylon to replace silk floss; and for the routine of it to become more common.

Note that it became just ‘more common’ – which is still far from de rigueur. Flossing has remained one of those good intentioned habits we all love to hate. While the importance of flossing has been widely accepted, it turns out that the supportive evidence (like its 0.1 or 0.3mm diameter) is surprisingly thin.

Many choose to use floss picks instead of traditional dental floss. Whether it’s tape or ribbon, unflavoured, flavoured, unwaxed or waxed – it’s all still made of nylon, and Teflon.

Yup, you read that right.

Teflon (PTFE) is one of 15,000 PFAS chemicals (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl) that have been used in consumer products around the world since the 1950s. They are associated with numerous health effects; including impairment of the immune system, cancer, fertility and reproductive issues, developmental impacts, and kidney disease.

The greater percentage of dental floss and the containers they come in are non-recyclable, non-biodegradable, and devastatingly injurious and deadly to marine life. It adds plastic waste in the form of unbreakably thin, or thinner strings to landfill, and our seriously and distressingly degraded oceans and its inhabitants.

Refillable glass and stainless steel containers are available anf floss made of silk, or hemp or corn can be sourced; but all in all, the product itself is an issue. Even the best known, good-for-the-earth, “100% vegetarian, 100% biodegradable” floss doesn’t seem to mind putting it in plastic. Certainly, there are no such ‘eco-friendly’ equivalents in floss picks – even the cornstarch ones are bound together using a plastic polymer.

Do We Need To Floss At Dental Couture

How much of a truth can be a lie?

Quite a bit, it seems. Particularly in the post-truth world in which we all live.

If the ecological damage, the multiple decades it takes to decompose, and any number of easily found images depicting horrifically wrap-maimed, and slow-death animals both wild and domestic, is all considered just collateral damage for practicing better oral health, then listen up.

Maybe flossing isn’t actually helping us improve it, and it’s a hot topic among dentists.

Some practitioners with more than thirty-five and forty years experience, say that the only thing a piece of non-toxic, natural dental floss is good for, is removing a bit of popcorn, or a piece of apple or something caught between your teeth that rinsing couldn’t dislodge, and brushing didn’t move.

That’s it. That’s all it’s good for. Which also implies that one spool of it would last a lifetime.

Flossing isn’t regarded as a method to improve your oral biology by some dentists. They view it as you would any thread or piece of string; it’s nothing that changes the bacterial composition of you mouth.
What needs to happen when cavities or gum disease is present, is for the oral bacterial lode to be decidedly altered.

And for added gross factor, flossing in the bathroom anywhere along the vanity really, but particularly near other people’s toothbrushes, without going into detail you’re coating and sharing all that you have with the gay abandon of unaccountable gob confetti.

Enough said.

There is significant association with the overall health of the body, and the oral systemic connection.

So seriously – do we need to floss?

Some dentists maintain that in a mouth of compromised health, flossing pushes bacteria into bleeding gums, which then enters the bloodstream and creates chronic inflammatory conditions. Used to be that people with rheumatoid arthritis or heart valve disorders would be prescribed antibiotics prior to any dental cleaning, because it’s known that cleaning or scraping around the gums is a way for pathogens to find their way into the cardiovascular system.

Flossing has been likened to rubbing a piece of string up and down an infected finger in the hope of healing it; rather than applying an antibacterial solution or other protective measure.

Xylitol has been proven effective in the loosening of plaque between the teeth, which is the primary reason given for why we should floss. Xylitol reportedly suppresses harmful oral microbes, while nurturing and restoring bacteria colonies so necessary for robust dental health.

There are some positive results with certain mouth care system regimens and rinses for aiding the regrowth of gum tissue, and the strengthening of teeth.

Ultimately, what is there to lose by informing yourself of the latest findings through the available data, and making your own decision?

Chances are you’re probably not flossing anyway.

Disclaimer: The material posted is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Results vary with each patient. Any dental procedure carries risks and benefits. If you have any specific questions about any dental and/or medical matter, you should consult your dentist, physician or other professional healthcare providers.



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