Let’s just get one thing straight from the start: you really do need to floss. Floss is an interdental cleaner that is able to do more than simply scrub and polish the outer surfaces of your teeth. When used properly, it can dislodge tartar and bits of food from between the teeth, which could potentially lead to tooth decay and other periodontal problems. Flossing can also protect you from tooth discoloration and bad breath, and as a preventive treatment, it can end up saving you thousands of dollars in dental visits. However, despite the myriad benefits that flossing can add to your life, heart health doesn’t really appear to be one of them.
I know. There are a lot of sources that say differently. For well over a decade, floss-activists have been emphasizing the supposed connection between heart and gum health. And yes, at a glance, the evidence is compelling. After all, those who suffer from heart disease are often the same people who suffer from gum disease. However, to assume that there is a natural connection between the two simply because they are present at the same time is a logical fallacy. The real connection, or so it seems, lies in both heart disease and gum disease being symptomatic of other existing risk factors, such as obesity or smoking.
Hey, you have a right to be skeptical, but it seems that the science has spoken. After reviewing all of the previous data, a panel of dentists and cardiologists came to the conclusion that gum health, while important, has not been proven to be connected to heart health in any way. There’s just no real evidence.
So how is it that the rumored connection between gum disease and heart disease gained such widespread attention?
Well, for one thing, it just sort of sounds like the kind of surprising (but not too surprising) piece of trivia that would end up being true. After all, flossing is good, so it must be good for your heart as well, right?
At the same time, people are more likely to stand up and take notice when it’s a matter of life and death. When someone tells you to floss so that you can have healthy teeth, then you might not be as motivated as you would be if they were to tell you to floss so that you can avoid a heart attack.
Still, it just doesn’t seem right to coerce people into something by spreading a falsehood (even if the thing that you’re promoting is healthy and important in-and-of itself). So, if you don’t floss as often as you should, you can probably expect to have any number of tooth problems in the future. But regardless of how bad your mouth gets, it’s probably not going to damage your heart. It will, however, damage your gums and teeth, which are still vitally important.
If you floss every day, then good for you. Keep up the good work. If you don’t floss as regularly as you should, then get in the habit before it’s too late. If you don’t floss at all, then finding a dentist and getting a few pointers (and probably some work done) will be your first step towards a healthier mouth and a happier lifestyle, and even without the threat of heart disease, that’s a goal worth pursuing.