When your dentist tells you to floss, you may wonder if it makes a difference. A study in twins shows that it does.
Researchers from New York University studied 51 pairs of identical twins. They were between the ages of 12 and 21. In the study, all of the twins brushed their teeth and tongue with a manual toothbrush and toothpaste. One twin in each pair also flossed.
After two weeks, researchers took samples of bacteria from each person's mouth.
Twins who did not floss had more of the bacteria that cause periodontal disease and tooth decay. The twins who flossed had more bacteria that are not linked to diseases of the mouth.
"This study illustrates the impact flossing can have on oral health," said Kenneth Kornman, D.D.S., Ph.D. "Flossing may significantly reduce the amount of bad bacteria in the mouth." Dr. Kornman is editor of the Journal of Periodontology. His remarks appeared in a journal press release.
Twin studies are powerful because twins who are raised in the same household often have similar habits. For example, they may have similar diets and brushing frequency. Identical twins also have the same genes. This means genetic factors don't get in the way of making conclusions about oral hygiene practices, such as flossing.
The study appears in the August issue of the Journal of Periodontology.