7 Reasons To Floss That Go Way Beyond Dental Health

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7 Reasons To Floss That Go Way Beyond Dental Health

Dental floss was first invented in the early 1800s by Levi Spear Parmly, a dentist from New Orleans who believed that, by dislodging matter caught between the gums, we could prevent the real source of oral diseases.

Although flossing as part of daily dental care didn’t take hold until the 1950s, nowadays flossing once per day is pretty much universally recommended by dentists everywhere to prevent cavities and gum disease.

Despite a highly publicized investigation by the Associated Press – which found the existing literature on the effectiveness of flossing to be weak, low quality, and potentially biased (the studies were mostly funded by floss manufacturers) – even flossing skeptics can agree that even though the study methodology was flawed, flossing is an important aspect of overall good dental health.

A survey by the American Dental Association found that only four in 10 Americans floss once per day – and 20% never floss at all. When done correctly, flossing your teeth carries several benefits that go far beyond basic dental hygiene – from heart health, maintaining a healthy body weight, to your performance in the bedroom and more.

In this article we reveal why you are going to want to start flossing more regularly, as well as three eco-friendly dental floss options to minimize the environmental impact of your new healthy habit.

7 Benefits Of Flossing

1. Flossing Helps Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

Periodontitis is defined as a serious infection of the gums that damages soft tissues and bone. It expresses itself as swollen, tender, red gums that bleed easily. It can cause the gums to recede, teeth to loosen, and new spaces to open up between the teeth.

Periodontal disease begins when plaque – a sticky film of bacteria created when remnants of food interact with normal mouth bacteria – builds up and turns into tartar. When excess plaque and tartar cover the tooth, it develops into gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. If left untreated, chronic gum inflammation causes pockets between gums and teeth that fill with plaque, tartar, and bacteria.

The link between poor oral health and cardiovascular disease was first observed in a Croatian study published in 1988 that investigated the condition of teeth in patients who had suffered a heart attack. Since then, researchers have explored the association between periodontal disease and cardiovascular events, finding that two types of bacteria that originate in the mouth can enter the bloodstream and invade the arteries, causing them to narrow due to a build up of plaque. In a meta-analysis of the existing scientific literature, the 2007 paper concluded that people who have periodontal disease (PD) are more than twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease as those who don’t have PD.

The good news is that PD is largely preventable. Practice good oral hygiene by flossing once per day before you brush, and by brushing your teeth for two minutes at least twice per day. Regular cleanings by your dentist once or twice a year will help keep tartar under control.

2. Flossing May Prevent Women-Specific Health Issues

Women experience hormonal changes throughout life, during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. And it turns out that fluctuating hormones during these periods have a profound impact on mouth bacteria, which have ramifications on overall health.

The study, published in 2012, examined 61 scientific articles to ascertain whether female hormones have a relationship with gum disease. They found that hormonal changes in women alters oral flora, allowing bacteria to grow, enter the bloodstream, and complicate other conditions like osteoporosis and pregnancy. Hormone-linked gum disease can cause pre-term labor, bone loss, and even fetal death.

While more research is needed, the study’s authors encourage women especially to take good care of their teeth by brushing and flossing regularly to prevent or lessen the severity of these health issues.

3. Flossing May Help Prevent Weight Gain

Although gum disease and obesity may make strange bedfellows, a link between periodontitis and BMI was established in a 2010 review and meta-analysis of 70 studies from across the globe. Its authors found that people with periodontal disease are much more likely to be obese, and vice versa.

The common denominator between weight gain and gum disease appears to be inflammation. Although the researchers were unable to verify that gum disease leads to obesity or that obesity leads to gum disease, the relationship between these health issues might be a two-way street. Chronic inflammation causes oxidative stress and the production of cytokines, factors that could contribute to either condition.

A link has also been established between PD and metabolic syndrome, defined as a cluster of conditions that occur together: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity around the abdomen, and high cholesterol.

4. Flossing Improves Blood Sugar Levels in Diabetic Patients

The prevalence of gum disease in diabetic patients is estimated to be double or triple the rest of the population. Just as with obesity, there appears to be a two-way relationship between chronic periodontitis and excess glucose in the bloodstream.

Maintaining good oral hygiene has been shown to have a positive impact on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes patients, according to a meta-analysis of the existing scientific literature. By treating the underlying gum disease, the diabetic patients had reduced their A1C levels and had improved glucose metabolism. These effects lasted for at least three months after the initial treatment.

5. Flossing May Help Ease Erectile Dysfunction

Defined as the inability to maintain an erection for sex, erectile dysfunction (ED) can be caused by psychological factors such as stress and depression as well as a slew of health complications like metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and clogged arteries.

Just as gum disease and oral plaque have been linked to cardiovascular disease and the features of metabolic syndrome, it appears that periodontal disease is much more prevalent in men who struggle with ED. The 2011 study involved 70 patients diagnosed with ED; the researchers discovered that the most severe cases of ED had the greatest preponderance of gum disease. For example, of the 11 patients in the study with severe ED, 81% of these also had chronic periodontitis.

It is believed that gum disease can cause ED due to a build up of plaque in the arteries which can staunch penile blood flow.

6. Flossing to Alleviate Rheumatoid Arthritis

As another ailment deeply entrenched in chronic inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis causes joints to become stiff, swollen, tender, and weak. This disease is also closely related to PD, according to a study published in 2008. In it, patients with rheumatoid arthritis were more than 8 times as likely to have periodontal disease as compared with the control group.

7. Flossing Can Help Keep You From Getting Sick

Pneumonia, bronchitis, and other respiratory ailments are caused by bacterial and viral infections of the lungs. Though incredibly common, especially during cold and flu season, lung infections are uncomfortable to say the least. Symptoms include chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, and fever or chills.

People who are sick with a lung infection have a much greater likelihood of poor oral hygiene, according to a study published in 2011. Comparing 100 cases of patients hospitalized with respiratory disease with 100 healthy volunteers, the researchers found that the types of bacteria that colonize the mouth in gum disease can invade the respiratory tract to aggravate the symptoms of pneumonia and bronchitis. Though they note that periodontitis doesn’t actually cause lung infections, it does heighten the risk of contracting these illnesses 7-fold.

How to Choose Eco-Friendly Floss That Won’t Destroy The Planet

The first dental flosses were originally made from waxen silk thread. In time, floss makers shifted to using nylon because it was durable and could be produced in various lengths with a consistent diameter. But nylon isn’t recyclable. And most big name floss brands are coated in polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) – also known as Teflon – so it glides smoothly over the tooth. PTFE is a synthetic chemical that may be contaminated during the manufacturing process with perluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) – another perfluorinated chemical that persists in the environment forever and is toxic to humans and animals.

There are better dental floss options that are healthier for you and the planet.

3 Eco-Friendly Dental Floss Options

Dental Lace

Made out of 100% silk threading, Dental Lace provides refillable floss spools so you can reuse the glass and stainless steel container again and again – and prevent the usual plastic floss boxes from ending up in the landfill.

Le Négri Natural Silk Dental Floss

A natural silk floss coated in beeswax, Le Négri comes in a reusable tin that threads through an opening at the top.

Woobamboo Eco-Awesome Floss

Offering the biodegradability of silk floss in renewable plant-based plastic, Woobamboo has eliminated the need for toss away floss dispensers.