4520 Broadway, Suite B
Boulder, CO 80304

4520 Broadway, Suite B, Boulder, CO 80304

Is Not Flossing What’s Really Causing Cavities?

So about that whole flossing thing….

It turns out we might have been wrong. And ironically we may have made everything worse.

Wait, what?

Ok, I won’t come out and say flossing doesn’t matter. It does, you will have gum disease if you don’t mechanically remove the plaque from between your teeth. So don’t get too excited. But I’ve been seeing something very interesting lately that has turned conventional dental wisdom on its head.


In roughly 70% of the interproximal cavities (those between teeth) we are seeing in adults the cause is NOT floss related. For, well, ever, we’ve blamed flossing as the reason you are getting those cavities. It made sense and there wasn’t really any reason to look elsewhere for causes. Just blame the patient and do the filling. They get stressed out, gnash their teeth in frustration, and probably don’t start flossing (let’s be honest.)

The gnashing is the cause of the cavities.  


The Relationship Between Gnashing Teeth and Cavities

With superior diagnostics that have appeared in recent years we are now able to visualize far more accurately the cavities we are treating. And we are seeing that 70% have a clear fracture associated with the cavity! What happens is you get a small crack in the side of your tooth, whether through grinding, parafunctional habits, or just accidentally biting hard on something. That little crack isn’t large enough to cause symptoms or be seen by a ‘traditional’ x-ray. But it is large enough to allow small amounts of fluid and bacteria into the softer parts of the tooth. Eventually that spreads into a lesion large enough to be identified, and you get yelled at because you didn’t floss.

So I am here to free you of some of that crushing guilt. Next time you get a cavity, in the words of Good Will Hunting, it’s not your fault.

Isn’t that nice?

– Jeffrey Patrician, DDS