If Flossing Adds Years to Our Lives, Why Don’t We Do It More?

Flossing has a number of critical benefits, including the surprising one that it can add years to your life. So why don’t more people floss more regularly? I have a few ideas, including how to make flossing easy and part of your everyday routine.

Let’s first look into the idea that flossing can extend your lifespan. Periodontist Sally Cram, DDS, a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association, notes in a WebMD article, “There are a lot of studies that suggest that oral health, and gum disease in particular, are related to serious conditions like heart disease.”

The same article states, “According to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease (also called heart disease.)”

An example of why this occurs is illustrated by epidemiologist Moise Desvarieux, MD, PhD. In his recent study, “he and his co-authors found that people who had higher blood levels of certain disease-causing bacteria in the mouth were more likely to have atherosclerosis in the carotid artery in the neck.”

This clogging of the arteries is what causes strokes. And “experts know that bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream through the gum.”

Now whether or not periodontal disease, gingivitis or pericoronitis actually causes heart attacks or strokes hasn’t been established, but experts believe there is a connection. It was even highlighted in this story on CNN (did Dr. Gupta get a sneak peek at today’s post?)

So if a simple solution to remedy those potentially-fatal bacteria in your mouth is to brush your teeth and floss, why don’t we floss as regularly as we should?

Brushing Easy, Flossing a Different Story

Tooth-brushing is fairly well accepted and practiced aspect of daily oral health, and yet only half of Americans say they floss their teeth once or more.

Why the reluctance to floss?  I have several theories.

1. People just didn’t grow up doing it.

Today there is a much greater emphasis on health. It used to be that toothbrushing was mandatory, but people never really paid much attention to flossing. If you don’t develop those habits when you’re young, they’re hard to acquire as you get older.

My suggestion:

Try something new. There are a lot of things you didn’t do as a child that you do today.  And by all means, encourage your children to do it too, so they’re establishing those habits early.

2. It can be more time consuming.

We’re all busy, me included. But is it really too much of a hassle to take an extra 5 minutes of your day and floss your teeth? Unfortunately for some, this may be the excuse.

My suggestion:

If you can’t find time at the end of the night, why not try it during the day? Flossing sticks are a convenient way to fit in flossing anywhere. Try it during your commute, when you’re waiting at a stop light. It won’t take long.

3. It’s too cumbersome.

For those who don’t floss often, the physical maneuvering required for flossing can be a little awkward.

My suggestion:

Practice makes perfect. Out of the gates, you may find it a little awkward handling the floss, but soon you’ll become an old pro. And as I just noted, flossing sticks can make this much easier.

4. It doesn’t seem to make a difference.

All that flossing for a few little pieces of food or plaque?  Most people can’t see how that can impact health.

My suggestion:

Besides reviewing the studies mentioned above, consider that those little pieces of food turn into bacteria. And that bacteria smells, which results in very bad breath for you. If you don’t believe me, stop flossing for three days. Then floss, and smell the floss, this makes everyone a believer!

We’ve linked flossing to longer life, improving oral health, and preventing bad breath.  Is that a convincing enough argument for you?  If not, tell me what’s stopping you from flossing.  Perhaps I can offer some ideas on how to get you started on a very healthy habit.

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