We’ve been talking a lot recently about the importance of flossing, not only for our oral health but for whole-body health as well. We also recently discussed a detailed analysis of what are the best flosses on the market as well as why we are not fans of flosser picks.
However, there are some circumstances where flossing may not be the best option for you.
So, to determine if flossing is right for you, let’s first do a quick review of why flossing is such a helpful part of the path to optimal oral health.
The microorganisms implicated with gum disease, what we commonly call ‘thug bugs’ are opportunistic. Essentially, the thug bugs break down the structure of the mouth (gum tissue and underlying bone tissue).
The reason we say thug bugs are opportunistic is that they can and do live in the mouths of people who don’t show signs of gum disease, however, their numbers are not sufficient to do damage. Thug bugs are only troubling when the host immune system (that’s us) is diminished sufficiently that the thug bugs can ramp up their numbers and colonize the gum line.
Fundamentally, it’s the job of our immune systems to keep the thug bugs in check and maintain a high enough expression of our immunity to keep the thug bugs from colonizing our mouths. (If you want to learn more about the foundational role that our immune system plays in helping us get out of harm’s way from gum disease and tooth decay as well as many other ‘non-mouth’ ailments, check out our free video tutorial series, the 5 steps to a healthy mouth.)
With the importance of immune response in place, there is much we can do ‘in the mouth’ to help reduce the risk of thug bugs colonizing our gum lines.
Dr. CC Bass established 100 years ago that the ‘in the mouth’ approach to stopping thug bugs’ is to disrupt and disorganize the bad bug’s effort to organize and colonize the gum line.
As an important side note, this is why calculus/tartar is so detrimental… Over time, thug bugs build calculus up as a protective cover to keep us from being able to disrupt and disorganize their health undermining efforts so they can destroy the health of the whole body without being ‘bothered’ by us.
Ok, so far we’ve established that the vital expression of the immune response is fundamental. We’ve also established that the way to help stop thug bugs in the mouth is to disrupt and disorganize them regularly.
Flossing is so helpful because it easily disrupts and disorganizes thug bugs.
Flossing is an easy way to regularly disrupt and disorganize thug bugs along AND under the gum line.
Where mouthwash only gets 1 mm under the gum line and a toothbrush only gets 2mm, floss provides the ability to easily disrupt thug bugs up to 4mm under the gum line. And if we apply the strategies we teach called conscious flossing, we add even more benefit to this easy oral hygiene strategy.
So, when is flossing not the best strategy?
There are three main times that flossing may not be your best option to disrupt and disorganize thug bugs. The problem with flossing is it requires quite a bit of manual dexterity to floss effectively.
The last thing any of us wants to occur is for us to think we are doing good for the body (in this case by flossing) but not realize that the job we commonly do isn’t achieving the results we seek.
Two situations where the ability to manually perform flossing well are both when the person may not have the manual dexterity to floss effectively. After all, flossing does require a lot of detailed application of hand skills. The third situation is in the case of braces.
Who should consider other methods than flossing…
- Physically handicapped or impaired person:
If we don’t have the manual coordination or control to be able to have steady hands and perform flossing effectively, using floss probably isn’t in our best interest as we could cause more harm than good.
- Young children:
Yes, we want to teach our kids how to floss well. However, we also don’t want them developing the false understanding that the flossing they do when they are 3 is ‘enough’ to perform the optimal flossing technique.
Perhaps try allowing any youngsters near you to practice while you floss so they can develop the habit. However, we like the following strategy for kids and those challenged with physical limitations.
- Anyone with braces:
Yeah, you can floss with braces, but if you think flossing, in general, is tedious, just imagine having to work the floss between the teeth while having metal all over the place.
The Solution to Not Flossing
The literature showing the power to disrupt and disorganize thug bugs via a flow of water has been proven over and over again for decades. While the proper term for these devices is an oral irrigator, most of us call them by their common brand names, Waterpik or Hydrofloss.
An oral irrigator is a wonderful solution for physically impaired people and young kids as well as the person with braces. We consider habitual oral irrigation to be a super awesome idea for any child. It’s fun, doesn’t require lots of dexterity, and is very, very helpful.
One word of caution, however…
Every oral irrigator we’ve tried over the years allows for the user to set the water pressure WAY too high for our comfort or for our health for that matter. The problem goes like this…
~ We find out about thug bugs and get kind of freaked out that we have a microscopic war zone in our mouths.
~ We hear that using a Waterpik will help to disrupt and disorganize the thug bugs.
~ So (here’s the fatal assumption) we figure that using the Waterpik on high pressure will be even better to blast the thug bugs from our gum pockets.
It’s not. It’s downright unhealthy for our whole bodies if we use Waterpiks in a high-pressure setting. If we use oral irrigators on a high setting we run the risk of actually pushing the thug bugs INTO our bloodstream (bad news) causing what is known as bacteremia.
We are trying to disrupt tiny bacterial colonies, not pressure wash grime off our driveways.
So, the solution is to keep the setting on LOW. If your dial has a 1-10 scale, please no higher than a 3 or 4.
“What if I don’t have an oral irrigator?”
You can do quite a bit of good with the simple technique of vigorously swishing water in your mouth. The key here is vigor. I mean, give your neck, throat, jaw, and face muscles a workout for 30 seconds vigorously swishing water around your mouth.
Even better than water would be to swish your saliva around your mouth! That way, you are also providing your teeth an excellent ‘REmineralizing bath’ with all the minerals naturally in saliva to repair any surface enamel loss.
In the end, whatever strategies you choose to apply to disrupt and disorganize thug bugs in your mouth, do them regularly. The little time it takes for some well-chosen oral hygiene strategies not only helps us have fresher breath and a brighter smile but supports our whole system immune response as well.