Our Passion, Your Health

Our Passion | Your Health features stories on the latest happenings at Penn State Health St. Joseph. Check out our blogs, recipes, patient stories, program highlights, and new services that represent our passion...your health.

Don’t Floss? Your loss says dental hygienist

In light of recent reports, the Dental Department felt compelled to weigh-in in the defense of one of the most important homecare devices available for oral health… you guessed it folks: floss! What would dear Dr. Levi Parmly, the inventor of dental floss, say in response to the recent attack on his beloved interproximal aide?! Who knew a little “string” could cause such riot!


The big question seems to be: why flossing is recommended as part of a daily home care regimen? The answer is simple: plaque. Dental plaque is a living biofilm made up of numerous bacterial strains. Even seconds after brushing our teeth, the biofilm forms on the tooth surface as a result of glycoproteins in our saliva. Unfortunately, dental plaque utilizes these glycoproteins to adhere to the tooth’s surface, and the longer the dental plaque is left undisturbed (through brushing and flossing), the stronger the bacteria will get, and the greater the damage to both the tooth surface (a cavity) and/or its surrounding tissue (gum disease).

To help understand the strength of plaque, think of a vase of flowers. After a few days, if you were to discard the flowers and dump out the water, there would likely be a grayish, slippery, slime left inside the vase. You could rinse the vase several times, but the best way to breakup this slime is to disrupt it mechanically, or scrub the vase. In the mouth, dental plaque forms the same slime layer, and it too needs to be “broken-up” through daily brushing and flossing. With brushing alone, half of the tooth surface is being missed, allowing buildup of plaque in-between the teeth and gums. This buildup may lead to tooth decay and inflammation of the surrounding gum tissue (or gingivitis), just to name a few…

In short, the benefits of daily flossing far outweigh the risk of leaving plaque behind in the mouth, and like all things, dental floss will work, if you work it.

Penn State Health St. Joseph public board meeting spotlights downtown Reading dental clinic

The Dental Clinic on the Penn State Heath St. Joseph Downtown campus was a featured presenter at the Penn State Health public board of directors meeting this week, with Dr. Chris Kosenske noting the clinic treats about 600 patients a month, many of whom have little or no insurance.

Dr. Kosenske, who is a dentist and the leader of the clinic, also gave an overview of the general practice residency program, an American Dental Association-approved one year program that currently has four residents. Residents treat patients in the clinic and also rotate through other hospital areas including the Emergency Department, Anesthesia, Oral Surgery, Pathology, Radiology and Family Medicine. The residents also conduct inpatient consults and are on call 24×7.

“We prepare our dental residents with both theory and hands-on training to best prepare them to seek full employment upon graduation,” Dr. Kosenske explains. “They offer high quality dental services using modern dental equipment in our seven treatment rooms.” The program is located on the campus at 6th and Walnut streets.

“What is also vitally important about our dental clinic is that it continues our mission focus on all community citizens, particularly the vulnerable and underserved,” he added. About 30% of the clinic’s patient population is uninsured, 65% have medical assistance and 5% have private insurance.

Dental clinic staff also is heavily involved in community outreach and education, providing care through the Migrant Farmworkers program and through a partnership with the Federally Qualified Health Center’s in Berks County. Clinic staff also is part of Berks County’s Oral Health Task Force which assesses the county resident’s dental needs.

Dr. Kosenske said one of the clinic’s most successful programs was developed in partnership with the Migrant Farmworkers. It provides free dental services to school-age children and begins its 16th year in 2016.

The program is funded for supplies to run six Saturdays a year and treats about 30 children in each session. Dr. Kosenske says each child receives about $3500 in donated services which can include intensive services like root canals and extractions.

The program owes much of its success to the volunteers from both the dental and hygienists societies in Berks County, and to Penn State Health St. Joseph volunteers.

“Nothing gives the volunteers more satisfaction than to see children who we have helped no longer be embarrassed to smile,” he said.