Do You Really Need to Floss?

Newton Wellesley Dental Partners, Newton, MAAlongside washing your face before bed and eating your daily greens, flossing twice a day is one of those pieces of health advice that you know you're supposed to be following to a tee. In reality, though? It's not always happening (just me?).

As far as the flossing commandment, however, I can probably count on one hand (maybe even one finger) how many people I know who floss on the reg—which completely goes against what all dentists say.

Then again, the health staple has even come under fire in the past couple of years, with the Associated Press announcing that there's no scientific evidence that you need to be flossing daily. So what gives?

Most dentists say: "Everyone should floss at least once a day. If you don't, you leave food particles between the teeth and under the gums that can cause cavities, gum disease, and bad breath."

The problem lies in your toothbrush, which only reaches roughly 25 to 50 percent of your tooth surfaces. Brushing alone doesn't go between the teeth or under the gum, where food particles get stuck—and that's the area where most adult cavities form.

Your tooth has five surfaces. You can only clean three of them by brushing, so two-fifths aren't getting cleaned unless you floss. That's not a passing grade in anyone's book. Sigh—and no one wants a failing grade in hygiene.

If you avoid the situation and stick to your toothbrush only, you risk developing cavities, gingivitis, and eventually periodontitis—which is a serious gum infection that could destroy the bone that supports your teeth (yikes). And you can lose teeth. But, fear not—I asked about the absolute minimum amount of flossing that you can get away with and still have healthy teeth.

The answer? Once a day.

I suppose. For more information, contact Newton Wellesley Dental Partners.