You could be flossing all wrong, if you’re even flossing at all

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flossing correctly
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Dentists also know from experience that flossing and other means of removing toxic dental plaque from the tooth surface underneath the gumline can help prevent long-term dental disease. A recent study by US researchers backs this up, finding that people who learned and consistently used proper flossing technique showed fewer indicators of potential severe disease than those who did not.

The study by a team at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (TUSDM)—published in the Journal of Dental Hygiene—was prompted by an attention-grabbing 2016 article from the Associated Press that focused on the scarcity of evidence supporting the long-term efficacy of flossing. Dental professionals responded by pointing out that since severe periodontal disease takes years to develop, it would be almost impossible—and unethical—to conduct a decades-long controlled study.

“In the aftermath of the 2016 AP coverage, studies were done showing that most people really aren’t flossing accurately,” lead author David Basali said. 

And previous flossing studies did not take technique into account. With folks dragging the floss through their mouth any which way, no wonder today’s researchers thought the data was undependable.

To untangle the flossing question, the Tufts group looked at a marker of potential disease: bleeding gums. The researchers examined 36 people with gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. 

Half of the patients were trained to floss using what is known as the ‘adapted horizontal vertical flossing technique’, or AHVFT, and asked to document their daily flossing. The others were left to their usual flossing styles and routines.

After eight weeks, the group that received instruction in flossing technique and stuck to a daily regimen had a 70 per cent reduction in bleeding gums, compared to 30 per cent for the control group.

“This is the first study of which we are aware to prove that a person using floss with a specific technique will have less gum infection than a person who just does what they normally do,” study co-author Paul Levi said.

“Sometimes we see patients traumatise the gum line with improper flossing technique, which can create clefts by cutting the gum and can lead to gum recession,” study co-author Irina F. Dragan added.

“The AHVFT assures that the floss is well-adapted to the side of the tooth to prevent floss cuts.”

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