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Busting flossing fallacies – facts, fiction, and everything in-between

Flossing is considered by dental professionals to be an essential part of an effective oral hygiene routine. But did you know that it’s not just good for your mouth, it can also impact your overall health? Flossing helps prevent gum disease which research has linked to many serious health issues including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even dementia.

Despite the overwhelming evidence in its favour, less than a third of people floss regularly. Oral hygienist Stella Lamprecht, former president of the Oral Hygienists Association of South Africa (OHASA), believes this is due to misinformation: “People simply don’t know they should be cleaning between their teeth every day.”

We chatted to three dental experts to clear up some of these common flossing fallacies.

  1. Myth: You don’t need to floss if you brush your teeth regularly.

Truth: Even if you brush your teeth well, it only removes around 50% of the plaque in your mouth. This is because teeth have five sides, and brushing can only clean three. Without manual removal, plaque and food debris remains trapped between the teeth and can build up into tartar.

  1. Myth: Flossing causes bleeding gums.

Truth: Although some people may experience a little bleeding when they first start to floss, it should clear up in a day or two. Bleeding gums are usually a sign of gum disease, which is the country’s second biggest oral health issue, according to the South African Dental Association (SADA).

“If you have bleeding while brushing or flossing, it’s advisable to see your dentist,” says Dr Corlene Schnetler of Cape Periodontal Specialists. “Manage it sooner than later. What starts as mild, reversible gum disease, medically called gingivitis, can become irreversible periodontitis, and permanently damage the gums if it’s untreated.”

  1. Myth: Flossing is only necessary for people with dental issues.

Truth: Everyone can benefit from flossing, regardless of their dental history. “Healthy gums can usually be maintained by simply following a proper daily oral hygiene routine that includes brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing once a day, brushing your tongue daily, and using a mouthwash,” says Dr Schnetler.

  1. Myth: Flossing is unnecessary if your teeth are close together.

Truth: It’s important to clean between your teeth even if you have tight contacts. Says Dirna Grobbelaar, Ivohealth Oral Hygiene Advisor: “There are many different interdental tools available these days, to suit every kind of dentition. If your teeth are close together, new GUM Twisted Floss is ideal. It’s super thin, waxed and has two strands twisted together to provide a greater flossing surface so it cleans between very well and glides easily between even the tightest of teeth.”

  1. Myth: Flossing takes too much time and isn’t worth the effort.

Truth: Flossing correctly only takes a couple of minutes each day and can help prevent gum disease, which has been linked to many serious health issues, including Alzheimer’s disease. Good oral hygiene practices including flossing may be able to reduce your risk of cognitive decline. “Flossing takes a small effort but can have a big impact on your overall health,” says Grobbelaar. “Choose a regular time each day and it will soon become a habit you don’t even think about. And you’re never too old to start.”

For further expert information, including how to find your ideal floss, read Ivohealth’s expert guide to interdental care and blog.

For advice on your oral care routine chat to your dental professional.


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