"I'm a periodontist so I deal with gum disease every day, and there are lots of studies showing that plaque building up between the teeth does cause gum disease."
Dr. Sally Cram, a consumer adviser for the American Dental Association (ADA), was responding to a recent Associated Press story headlined Medical benefits of dental floss unproven. In an interview with CNN, Dr. Cram referred to the ADA’s Mouth Healthy website, which makes the following points:
“Although recent news reports have questioned the benefits of cleaning between your teeth, using an interdental cleaner (like) floss is an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums.”
“Also referred to as periodontal disease, gum disease is caused by plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on our teeth.”
“When you eat or drink foods containing sugars, the bacteria in plague produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plague keeps these acids in contact with your teeth and over time the enamel can break down. This is when cavities can form.”
“Flossing may also help prevent gum disease and cavities.”
And what’s good for your oral health is believed to benefit your overall well-being. As Dr. Cram explained:
“A prevailing opinion among the public for many years is that a tooth is just a tooth. Now we are understanding that when you have inflammation and disease in your mouth, the mouth is connected to your whole body, and inflammation can spread to the rest of the body.”
“If you have a history (of heart disease) in your family, you need to be a little more careful to make sure you are brushing (at least twice a day), flossing (once a day) and having regular checkups.”
Still thinking about whether you need to floss every day?
Dr. Mathew Messina, an Ohio dentist who is also an adviser to the ADA, had this recommendation for flossing skeptics: Brush first, then floss to see that brushing can’t get to all the food particles trapped between the teeth.