Flossing as it’s known today started in the United States as early as 1815, when an American dentist, Dr. Levi Spear Parmly, introduced the idea of using waxed silken thread as floss. Later, he published a book, A Practical Guide to the Management of Teeth that emphasized the importance of brushing and flossing daily. The type of material used for floss evolved over time. It started with unwaxed silk floss and then nylon during World War II. Today, there are varieties made of Gore-Tex and spongy and soft floss for sensitive gums as well as water flossers.
It wasn’t until 1979 though that the U.S. federal government recommended flossing. It was first recommended in a surgeon general’s report and then later in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is issued every five years. Although the types of floss and its material evolved over time to make it more comfortable and accessible to the public, it still hadn’t quite caught on fully. The American Dental Association has noted that only four out of every 10 Americans floss at least once a day, and 20 percent never floss. The Oral Health Foundation in the United Kingdom noted that less than 25 percent of adults use dental floss regularly, and one in three never floss their teeth.
The statistics really aren’t surprising to Lisa Guenst, from Pennsylvania and a dental hygienist for more than 25 years. She is the creator of a new oral hygiene product ToothShower.
“Many of my patients complained about how cumbersome it is to floss so they just don’t do it. It’s challenging to reach certain parts of their mouth and others just forget entirely,” says Guenst. “Water flossers are messy and take up too much room on countertops. I would say from what I saw firsthand, the research and stats are accurate. The majority of my patients did not floss regularly, if at all.”
In 2016, the Associated Press set out to find how effective flossing really is since it’s been formally recommended for so long. They asked the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture for their evidence on flossing and followed up with written requests under the Freedom of Information Act. After looking at the most rigorous research conducted over the past decade, focusing on 25 studies that generally compared the use of a toothbrush with the combination of toothbrushes and floss, the AP found the evidence for flossing is “weak, very unreliable,” of “very low” quality, and carries “a moderate to large potential for bias.”
The AP story also cited research that said, “The majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal.” Another 2015 review highlighted cites “inconsistent/weak evidence” for flossing and a “lack of efficacy.”
In the article, Wayne Aldredge, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, did acknowledge the weak scientific evidence and the brief duration of many studies that show the benefits of flossing, but he also noted that the benefits might be clearer if researchers focused on patients at the highest risk of gum disease, such as diabetics and smokers.
Coinciding with the publication of the AP article, the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion omitted flossing from its dietary guidelines. Even with its removal and the AP article showing weak evidence, the American Academy of Periodontology defended the traditional preventive oral health prevention technique saying, “Flossing allows for the removal of plaque bacteria and debris from areas in the mouth that brushing alone cannot reach.”
The American Academy of Periodontology also countered the AP report by adding the following information about dental research in its official statement: “Because the development of periodontal disease is slow in nature and because a variety of factors can impact its progression, studies that examine the efficacy of daily flossing are best conducted over a number of years and among a large population. Much of the current evidence does not utilize a large sample size or examine gum health over a significant amount of time. Floss can occasionally cause harm. Careless flossing can damage gums, teeth and dental work. Though frequency is unclear, floss can dislodge bad bacteria that invade the bloodstream and cause dangerous infections, especially in people with weak immunity, according to the medical literature.”
What is clear, however, is the need for a remedy to fight against periodontal disease, which is chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gum tissue and bone supporting the teeth. Research from the Center for Disease Control shows that one out of every two American adults aged 30 and over has periodontal disease. If this is left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss.
Oral Health & Other Medical Conditions
Research has also shown that periodontal disease is associated with other chronic inflammatory diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. An article on Healthline.com noted that some recent research studies show an association between gum disease and heart disease. The article cited a 2014 study where researchers looked at people who had both gum disease and heart disease. The research concluded that people who had received adequate care for their gum disease had cardiovascular care costs that were 10 to 40 percent lower than people who didn’t get proper oral care. These findings support the idea that gum health affects heart health. Other research also showed a strong link between the two.
The article notes that given this evidence, the American Dental Association and American Heart Association have formally acknowledged the relationship between gum disease and heart disease. Their findings indicate that gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease because inflammation in the gums and bacteria may eventually lead to narrowing of important arteries.
The Healthline article also noted that gum disease and oral health may be related to other conditions. The article highlights that some research suggests that oral health could be related to osteoporosis because lower bone density leads to bone loss in the jaw, which eventually could lead to tooth loss due to a weaker underlying bone. It also noted respiratory disease citing that
bacteria in the mouth can move to the lungs and cause infections such as pneumonia. This, the article indicates, is more common for people with periodontal disease. Healthline also cited that research suggests that gum disease may increase the risk of certain forms of cancer, such as kidney, pancreatic, and blood cancers. The article indicates that more research is needed to better understand the links.
Looking at all of this research, and learning first hand from her patients what works and what doesn’t, Guenst set out to create a solution. To address the need for better oral health care while minimizing the negatives of other methods, Guenst created ToothShower, which is an innovative complete oral care solution for the shower. ToothShower offers three kinds of cleaning in one care solution. Along with a base that attaches to the shower wall there are three different attachments for optimum oral care including a dual-headed toothbrush, an irrigating tip, and a gum massager. Best of all, it works right in the shower so there is no mess. Water from the shower keeps ToothShower filled so there is no refilling, no electricity is needed, and it doesn’t take up counter space.
The dual-headed toothbrush hits both the front and back and sides of teeth, leaving no place for plaque to hide. The irrigating tip flushes water between teeth like a water flosser but without the mess to clean up. ToothShower works especially well for braces and to pinpoint spots that a toothbrush can’t reach. Finally, the gum massager works with seven jets of water to stimulate important blood flow in the gums, which is a huge part of preventing and even healing gum disease.
“I knew there had to be a better more effective method of care that also eliminated some of the hassle of using water flossers and other methods,” says Guenst. “ToothShower is not only extremely effective at cleaning teeth and gums, but users can even add in mouthwash or tooth whitener for an even fresher feeling.
For those that don’t shower every day, Guenst adds, “Even if the ToothShower is used just a few times a week, it has many more health benefits than never cleaning between your teeth, where gum disease can start.”
ToothShower is also easy to set up. There is a one-time installation. Users attach the wall plate with the waterproof adhesive, lock the console onto the plate, attach the valve to the showerhead, and finally connect the ToothShower to the valve. The user can control both the water pressure and the temperature to their comfort.
Guenst has already won awards for her new business plan for the product. She was the Grand Prize Winner in the West Chester University Business Idea Pitch 2017 and first place winner in the Temple University, Fox School of Business, Business Plan Competition 2017. Now Guenst is releasing ToothShower for presales on first Kickstarter, which launched on Oct. 17, and then Indiegogo starting Dec. 1. The two campaigns will offer significant discounts and those interested are encouraged to order early.
ToothShower is being offered through the campaigns for an early significantly discounted price.
Those interested are encouraged to lock in their orders early because of the limited number available under the presales offered. To learn more and make a pre-sale purchase, visit ToothShower.com.
ToothShower is a complete oral home care suite for the shower. The company was founded and the device invented by Lisa Guenst. Guenst has been working as a dental hygienist for more than 25 years, having received her degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University.