Can failing to floss lead to more than just cavities?
Do you floss every day? Research shows the answer for the majority of American adults is no.
One study examined survey data from more than 9,000 adults, ages 30 and older. Participants supplied the number of days they flossed the week before. Researchers found that an astonishing 32.4 percent of adults reported no flossing, 37.3 percent reported not flossing every day and 30.3 percent reported flossing daily.
According to the study, those less likely to floss include: men, adults aged 75 and older, African Americans, Hispanic adults and low-income participants.
“I think it’s one of those things people don’t know enough about,” said study author, Dr. Duong Nguyen, an epidemic intelligence service officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We are telling people to floss, but if we don’t tell them why and what it prevents, that could be one of the barriers.”
Flossing is instrumental in removing food between the teeth and prevents the buildup of plaque or sticky bacteria. Plaque creates acid, which can cause cavities and infection.
If plaque is not removed, it turns into tartar, which causes gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease. If left untreated, this can advance to periodontal disease, which can lead to bone loss in and around the teeth, and loss of teeth altogether.
But could not flossing lead to other health issues?
Dr. Mary Ellen Moore, an internal medicine physician with Advocate Christ Medical Center, in Oak Lawn, Ill, says that ongoing studies are finding correlations between a lack of flossing and some health issues including:
- Low birth weight babies
- Head and neck cancers
- Memory loss
- Mental health issues
- Heart disease
“While studies are showing a connection between oral health and these health issues, more research is needed to fully understand them,” says Dr. Moore. “However, since flossing is already known to be crucial in preventing so many dental issues, if you are not flossing currently, you should begin immediately and aim for twice a day.”