To Floss or Not to Floss… Is It a Question?

*(This post refers to dental flossing, not the over-hyped and short-lived dance move).
In the last few years, the practice of dental flossing has been challenged by media sources. This post analyzes criticisms of flossing and gives the latest advice from dental professionals on the subject.


As dentists say, “you only brush and floss the teeth you want to keep.” But in recent years, media outlets have challenged the conventional wisdom of flossing with headlines like this one from British newspaper The Telegraph: “Flossing teeth does little good investigation finds as US removes recommendation from health advice”.

Critics of flossing argue that it really doesn’t do much and that the only people who benefit are dental floss companies. This post analyzes what we know about flossing and reviews guidelines put out by the American Dental Association and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the subject.

What Do the Experts Say?

As oral health specialists, dentists are the experts when it comes to flossing. Leading professional dental organizations nationwide continue to recommend flossing.

The American Dental Association (ADA) states:

Floss“The (ADA) recommends cleaning between your teeth daily with an interdental cleaner (like floss). Cleaning between your teeth may help prevent cavities and gum disease. Cleaning between your teeth helps remove a sticky film called plaque. Plaque contains bacteria that feeds on leftover food or sugar in your mouth. When that happens, it releases an acid that can eat away at the outer shell of your teeth (enamel) and cause cavities.”

The Department of Health and Human Services states:

“Flossing is an important oral hygiene practice. Tooth decay and gum disease can develop when plaque is allowed to build up on teeth and along the gum line. Professional cleaning, tooth brushing, and cleaning between teeth (flossing and the use of other tools such as interdental brushes) have been shown to disrupt and remove plaque.”

The American Association of Periodontology states:

“The accumulation of plaque bacteria beneath the gum line may cause an inflammatory response which ultimately leads to gingivitis, a mild form of periodontal disease. If left untreated, periodontal disease can worsen, leading to tooth loss and increased risk for other systemic disease such as diabetes and heart disease.”

Proxabrushes are another great way to clean between teeth–especially in spots where you might have a gap between teeth.

So… I Still Have to Floss?

Well, much to your dental hygienist’s chagrin, no one is (probably) going to force you to floss. But if you want to have optimal oral health, dental professionals strongly recommend flossing. Everyone has a brother or a cousin or a friend who never flosses, but still has “perfect” teeth. There’s always an anomaly. It’s true that some people’s teeth are uniquely impervious to decay. But that’s the exception.

On a cautionary note, it is possible to damage gum tissue by flossing too aggressively. It’s important to find a balance between flossing gently and flossing thoroughly. Flossing shouldn’t typically be painful.

The basic concept is simple: You floss your teeth in order to clean the sides of your teeth that are inaccessible to the toothbrush. But there’s another benefit we don’t talk about often enough: better breath.

Flossing Gives You Better Breath

Tongue CleanerPlaque is not only sticky, but in most cases, stinky too. Flossing can improve your breath simply by removing foul-smelling plaque. When you floss AND use a tongue scraper, you’re on the fast road to fresh breath.

Flossing improves your breath, helps you reduce plaque buildup, and helps prevent gingivitis and the risk of periodontal disease. Dentists continue to strongly recommend flossing as an important practice for keeping your mouth healthy. When it comes to flossing, shoot for once per day. It doesn’t matter so much what time of day as it does that you’re consistent. Happy flossing!




American Dental Association. 2016. Federal Government, ADA Emphasize Importance of Flossing and Interdental Cleaners.


American Dental Association. Flossing.


Dr. Paulo Camargo. 2016. UCLA Newsroom.


American Association for Periodontology. 2016. Statement from the AAP on flossing efficacy.

6 Tips for Fighting Bad Breath

**This post is not intended to be expert medical advice

Bad Breath suits

Nobody likes bad breath. Have you ever wanted to get your hazmat suit ready because of someone else’s breath? In this post, we dive into 6 tips for fighting halitosis.

Halitosis is the technical term for chronic bad breath. Everyone has bad breath from time to time, but halitosis is a chronic condition. This means that it is persistent and long-term. Chronic bad breath can also be a symptom of an oral health problem. According to the American Dental Association, bad breath is primarily caused by 6 main factors: Bacteria, Dry Mouth, Gum Disease, Food, Smoking/Tobacco and Medical Conditions. Another less common cause of halitosis is tonsil stones. This post will give you a few tips for fighting bad breath and improving your oral health along the way.

Use Proxabrushes or Waterpiks – When you floss, focus on areas that tend to trap food. Sometimes gaps between certain teeth can trap more food than others because of the position or shape of the teeth. Consider using a proxabrush or a waterpik to reach hard-to-get areas. Ask your dental hygienist for more information on these products (which we carry at Nampa Dental). Making these areas a priority when you brush and floss can eliminate plaque and chunks of food that can cause bad breath.


Don’t Rely on Mints or Gum – Mints, mouthwash and gum can be useful in a pinch if you need fresh breath quick. Although mouthwash kills bacteria, it does not remove plaque and tartar, which are the usual sources of bacteria in the mouth. Attentive brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist for professional dental cleanings are the only way to eliminate plaque and tartar.

Stay Hydrated – Your oral health is connected to the health of the rest of your body. Staying properly hydrated will help keep your mouth from getting dry. Dry mouth is a condition when glands in the mouth stop producing saliva. It can be caused by nervousness, stress, certain medications, aging, and various autoimmune diseases. Smoking may also increase risk of dry mouth. Dry mouth can directly contribute to bad breath and other oral health problems. We recommend a special mouth lozenge called Salese for patients who suffer from chronic dry mouth. Ask your dentist or doctor for more information if you think you might suffer from chronic dry mouth.


Visit the Dentist Regularly – Visiting the dentist’s office for professional dental cleanings and exams is the best way to discover and eliminate the underlying causes of bad breath.  Your dental hygienist is professionally trained to remove plaque and hard, calcified buildup called tartar (or calculus) that produce unhealthy bacteria. These bacteria can cause tooth decay and periodontal disease in addition to bad breath.

Use a Tongue Scraper/Cleaner – Our tongues are incredible muscles that allow us to speak, sing and eat the way we do. Unfortunately, they can also be a culprit of bad breath. Your mother was right when she told you to brush your tongue… But only half right. Brushing the tongue with a toothbrush is not sufficient to remove all of the bacteria and buildup that cause bad breath. A tongue cleaner is a small, flexible plastic instrument that can remove this layer. Brace yourself, this can be disturbing!


Check Your Tonsils – Tonsils are located at the very back of the throat, where most people’s gag reflex kicks in. As you probably know, tonsils can become infected and inflamed. What you might not know is that they also have nooks and crannies that can accumulate food, mucus and other debris. This debris can form “tonsilloliths” or tonsil stones. These stones are white or yellow in color and can become calcified. They are extremely foul smelling and can cause halitosis. If you suffer from tonsil stones, you are not alone. Some research indicates that between 16-24% of the population may suffer from tonsil stones, but the research is limited. Tonsil stones can be removed, but the best thing to do is consult a doctor who may refer you to an otolaryngologist to have the tonsils checked. Tonsillectomy (surgical removal of tonsils) is the only reliable method for permanently treating tonsil stones.

Keep in mind that everyone has bad breath sometimes. If you suffer from chronic bad breath, we hope these tips are helpful! As always, consult a doctor or your dentist for more detailed information and treatment.