Many of us are guilty of not properly flossing our teeth, and this can have detrimental effects on our oral health. Sensory issues and improper technique are often the culprits behind our inadequate flossing habits. Bleeding gums caused by poor flossing technique can be off-putting and even lead to further damage to our gums. Instead of achieving better oral health, we inadvertently harm our gumline by traumatizing it and inducing gum recession. Tufts University periodontologist Irina Dragan warns of the potential consequences of improper flossing technique, emphasizing the importance of finding a way to reduce gum bleeding, which is an indicator of inflammation.

Flossing serves the purpose of disrupting the biofilm that oral microbes create to protect themselves. The oral cavity, like other parts of our bodies, harbors both beneficial and harmful bacteria. These bacteria attach themselves to our teeth, providing easy access to our bloodstream. In response to this invasion, our bodies may develop inflammation, which can spread to other areas, including our hearts and brains. Furthermore, inflammation has been associated with various diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Therefore, maintaining proper oral hygiene and reducing gum bleeding through effective flossing techniques are essential for overall health.

Led by periodontologist David Basali from Tufts University, a team of researchers conducted a randomized and single-blinded clinical trial to assess the impact of a specific flossing technique on gum bleeding. The trial involved 36 participants who exhibited early signs of dental disease. One group received clear flossing instructions, while the control group continued with their usual flossing routine. The participants were evaluated four times over an eight-week period. The results indicated that 88 percent of the trial group successfully mastered the prescribed flossing technique, leading to a significant 70 percent reduction in gum bleeding. In contrast, the control group only experienced a 30 percent reduction.

The trial group was instructed to use an adapted horizontal vertical flossing technique (AHVFT). The technique involves the following steps:

1. Cut off approximately 32 cm (18 inches) of floss.
2. With palms facing each other, wind each end around the ring finger (fourth finger) of each hand, leaving about 12 cm (6 inches) of floss between both hands.
3. Fold hands towards the suspended floss, so that palms face down. Pick up the floss between the thumb and index finger of each hand.
4. Gently place the floss between two teeth, using the thumb/index finger to control the floss and avoid cutting into the gum. Move the floss back and forth in a sawing motion against the side of one tooth while also applying upward and downward pressure.
5. Repeat this technique for all teeth.

The study participants, who were dental students and assistants, displayed a high adherence to the prescribed flossing technique. This observation suggests that individuals who are knowledgeable about dental health are more likely to adopt better flossing habits. The study is groundbreaking as it provides evidence that using a specific flossing technique can result in reduced gum infection compared to individuals who simply follow their usual flossing routine. Periodontologist Paul Levi emphasizes the significance of this finding, applauding the study for highlighting the effectiveness of a targeted flossing technique in improving gum health.

Proper flossing technique plays a crucial role in maintaining gum health and preventing inflammation-related complications. The clinical trial conducted by Tufts University researchers demonstrates the positive impact of an adapted horizontal vertical flossing technique on reducing gum bleeding. By adopting this technique, individuals can effectively disrupt the biofilm and promote better oral health. Whether you are a flossing skeptic or simply looking to enhance your flossing routine, it is worth giving this technique a try. Take charge of your gum health and experience the benefits of proper flossing technique today!


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