Updated: August 10, 2018 Oral Health
Many people today are confused about whether flossing teeth is actually necessary for good oral health.
Like with many dental practices, what conventional dentists recommend differs – sometimes dramatically – from what holistic dentists endorse to their patients. Flossing is no exception.
History of Dental Floss
In 1819, Levi Spear Parmly of New Orleans is credited with thinking up the practice of tooth flossing. He wrote about it in his book A Practical Guide to the Management of Teeth.
Within a century, flossing was common dental practice with silk threads the most common material.
In 1910, the New York publication Practical Druggist and Pharmaceutical Review of Reviews had this to say to its readers:
You know the value of dental floss. No one realizes better than you that the constant use of it would save lots of tooth trouble. (1)
Flossing became more difficult during World War II when silk supplies became scarce. The ingenious dentist Charles Bass saved the day by inventing the familiar nylon floss we know today. (2)
Flossing: Yes or No?
Long considered an indispensable tool for maintaining good oral health, flossing came under fire in 2016 with an Associated Press review of 25 studies on the subject.
On top of this dental bombshell, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) quietly removed flossing from their guidelines for good oral health. (4)
According to a survey by the American Academy of Periodontology, this proved to be good news for a little over one-third of adults who would prefer to perform an unpleasant task like clean a toilet than floss their teeth. The survey also uncovered that about one-quarter of people lie to their dentist about their flossing habits.
Despite the lack of randomized clinical trials proving its effectiveness, most dentists continue to support the daily habit of flossing teeth. The American Dental Association (ADA) continues to maintain that flossing “is an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums.”
Most dentists, both conventional and holistic, concur with the ADA. Dr. Tim Iafolla, a dental health expert at the National Institutes of Health summarizes it nicely:
Every dentist in the country can look in someone’s mouth and tell whether or not they floss.
Cleaning all sides of your teeth, including between your teeth where the toothbrush can’t reach, is a good thing. (5)
At this point, we’ve established that flossing is still a good idea despite the lack of randomized studies. Dentists can easily tell just by looking in your mouth whether you floss or not. Hence, it’s likely only a matter of time before large trials that cover a significant amount of time are published proving its effectiveness.
Conventional vs Holistic Flossing
Now let’s discuss the difference between how conventional dentists say to floss and what holistic dentists suggest. The differences are two-fold.
Biological dentists recommend a different type of floss than conventional dentists typically do. They also recommend a more effective method.
Dental Floss Materials
Did you know that the vast majority of dental floss on the market is toxic? On top of that, it is made from environmentally unfriendly materials like petroleum based nylon and teflon. (6)
Teflon Dental Floss
Floss made from teflon is particularly problematic. Polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE, is the synthetic resin used to make it. Durable, waterproof, and resistant to shredding and breakage, teflon dental floss is very practical. However, putting this toxic chemical in contact with thin gum tissue on a daily basis is not a wise practice according to holistic doctors. (7)
Sometimes, nonstick coatings in floss are made from perfluorooctanoic acid (or PFOA). Long considered safe, PFOA may actually be toxic. An Emory University Rollins School of Public Health study shows that this chemical has the potential to harm the thyroid. Researchers found that more than 10 percent of people exposed to drinking water contaminated with PFOA reported having some type of thyroid problem. (8)
Nylon and Silk Floss
If you buy conventional floss, it’s hard to know what the floss is made from as labeling requirements for this personal care product are weak. However, even if made from nylon or natural silk, holistic dentists do not recommend most floss anyway.
The reason is because the vast majority of floss manufacturers wax their products. Whether natural or synthetic, the wax can adhere to the teeth during flossing. This can prevent minerals and other beneficial properties in the saliva from contacting some areas of the tooth’s surface possibly inhibiting natural tooth remineralization. (8).
Holistic Tooth Flossing Method
Besides recommending only unwaxed floss, the holistic dentists I’ve visited recommend an additional step.
They suggest coating a strand of floss with a small amount of ozone infused oil before flossing. They will also do this for each patient as part of the standard holistic dental cleaning.
Ozone is highly anti-bacterial. It works to prevent an acid environment from developing in the tooth. This is a biological state that causes cavity causing bacteria to thrive. By flossing with ozonated oil, the bacteria in the plaque and tarter removed during a dental cleaning are inhibited from returning.
It is dental ozone that you can do at home!
Which Ozonated Oil to Use?
The holistic dentists I’ve visited use ozonated olive oil.
If you’ve never flossed using ozonated oil, I think you will really enjoy adding it to your daily oral routine. Dr. Mercola is in favor of it too describing it as a very effective plaque remover. (9)
You may wish to go this route especially if you don’t have access to a biological dentist who offers dental ozone during cleanings.
In my experience, you can really feel the difference! After flossing this way, your teeth and gums feel almost like you just had a dental cleaning – yes, that tingly and fresh!
The Healthy Home Economist holds a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Mother to 3 healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, ABC, NBC, and many others.