Does not flossing cause gingivitis?

As a dentist, I’ve heard every excuse in the book for why people don’t floss. “It’s too hard,” or “I forget” are common ones, but the best one I’ve heard so far is “I’m saving my floss for emergency situations.” Because you never know when an urgent dental floss situation might arise.

But let’s get serious here for a moment: does not flossing cause gingivitis? This question has been debated by dental professionals for years, so let’s take a closer look.

What Is Gingivitis?

First things first – what exactly is gingivitis? It sounds like something from Harry Potter, but unfortunately it’s much less magical than that. In fact, it’s downright unpleasant.

Gingivitis is a form of gum disease caused by bacteria building up on your teeth and gums. Your body responds to this buildup by sending white blood cells to attack the bacteria. Unfortunately, this can also cause inflammation and bleeding in your gums.

The Case for Flossing

Now let’s talk about how floss comes into play.

Floss helps remove bacteria and food particles from between your teeth – places where toothbrushes can’t reach. If left alone, these particles can accumulate and lead to plaque buildup which leads directly to gingivitis (and eventually worse forms of periodontal disease).

In fact, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), you should be flossing at least once per day as part of your oral hygiene routine if you want healthy gums.

But Wait…

So now we know that not removing bacteria through regular oral care can contribute to serious gum problems down the line…but does that mean not flossing will inevitably give us gingivitis?

Well hold onto your hats folks; it turns out that the answer is a little more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no.”

The Contradiction

The ADA states that “brushing twice a day and cleaning between your teeth with floss or interdental cleaners once a day can help prevent gum disease.” So officially, both brushing AND flossing are cited as ways to combat gingivitis.

However, there have been some studies which seem to suggest that the benefits of flossing may be overstated. In 2016, an article in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology pointed out that many previous studies on flossing were not well-designed enough to prove effectiveness – and even some found no significant evidence linking regular floss usage with better oral health.

What’s Our Conclusion?

So what’s our conclusion? Does not flossing cause gingivitis? While it seems likely that not removing bacteria from your mouth will lead to harmful effects over time (including potentially developing gingivitis), the extent to which regular floss use is critical for one’s dental health remains uncertain.

Ultimately, we’d recommend following official guidance from dentists: keep up daily brushing and add daily use of dental-approved interdental cleaners as needed. And if you’re ever caught without any dental-care supplies during an emergency situation….well, maybe don’t rely solely on emergency contingencies starting with ‘f.’

Stay healthy!

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