The N.Y. Times Article Questioning Flossing: A Comment

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The N.Y. Times Article Questioning Flossing: A Comment

The N.Y. Times published an article last week explaining the view that flossing may be overrated despite being recommended for years and years.

Just keep in mind that there is an entire specialty in dentistry, periodontology, to help patients who have difficulty with bleeding gums and bone loss. Much of the disease may come from inadequate home care (brushing and flossing). So, if you are one of the unfortunate patients who need extra help, possibly even periodontal surgery to improve their condition, your instructions will include dental flossing.

Since last week my hygienist has received a flood of questions about this article. It’s amazing that one article from a reputable newspaper can all of a sudden challenge the traditional dogma of dentistry. But, what was the point of the article? This particular doctor said that the studies have been inadequate to insist that people floss. In the healthy population this may all be true, but most people are prone to get at least gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gum causing them to be puffy and red, and they will bleed easily.

Without controlled studies, almost every dental office can see the decline in gum tissue health in those who confess “I need to floss more.” Most usually this means that the patient doesn’t floss at all. I think that the genetic component has much to do with how prone a patient is to develop periodontal disease. The more prone, the more home care you have to do to keep the gums looking healthy and avoid the slow process of bone loss. The National Institute of Health has stated that the major cause of tooth loss in adults is periodontal disease, not decay. So it is a real problem.

I sometimes take a cyinical view of what I read in the newspaper: perhaps, with a slower economy, the periodontists would like to perform more surgery; and what better way to generate more business than to get patients to quit flossing!