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I read that the actual benefit of flossing your teeth is not to remove food that is between them, but that your gums actually become stronger at fighting infections.

Is this true?

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    Can you provide a source that makes this claim? – jdstankosky Nov 7 '12 at 20:20
  • We want to focus our attention on doubtful claims that are widely held or are made by notable people. Please provide some references to places where this claim is being made. – Oddthinking Jun 8 '13 at 0:38
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The main benefit from flossing appears to be to reduce gingivitis or gum inflammation. Presumably it does this by removing food from the interdental spaces because there is only weak evidence it removes plaque which might be causing gingivitis. This Cochrane review concludes [1]

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS:

There is some evidence from twelve studies that flossing in addition to toothbrushing reduces gingivitis compared to toothbrushing alone. There is weak, very unreliable evidence from 10 studies that flossing plus toothbrushing may be associated with a small reduction in plaque at 1 and 3 months. No studies reported the effectiveness of flossing plus toothbrushing for preventing dental caries.

[1] Sambunjak D, Nickerson JW, Poklepovic T, Johnson TM, Imai P, Tugwell P, Worthington HV. Flossing for the management of periodontal diseases and dental caries in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Dec 7;(12):CD008829. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008829.pub2. Review. PubMed PMID: 22161438.

  • Could you comment on the stimulation aspect? I have on occasion been recommended a "gum stimulator" by dentists: a soft rubber implement with which to massage the gums between my teeth, which allegedly reduces inflammation. It seems to me that flossing also does some of this. – Ryan Reich Jun 1 '14 at 0:08
  • ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15058373 Mechanical stimulation of the gingiva is accepted as a way of improving gum health. Seems a plateau is reached at <= twice daily brushing. I don't think flossing does this. – HappySpoon Jun 1 '14 at 7:29
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    I have been told by my dentist on occasion to floss to "toughen up my gums", but the stated reason had less to do with gum or tooth health than with the dental hygienist being disturbed by drawing blood when flossing my teeth somewhat briskly. – Sean Duggan Jun 2 '14 at 12:15
  • The bleeding on flossing your teeth is due to gingivitis. – HappySpoon Jun 2 '14 at 20:47

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