To Floss or Not to Floss

“You should brush and floss at least twice a day,” dentists across the world have recommended for years. Recently, however, a startling report called the efficacy of flossing into question.

The report, published by the Associated Press in August 2016, said that though flossing had been one of the most common dental care recommendations, there was still little evidence that proved it did anything to promote healthy teeth. The AP had asked the federal government to provide proof that flossing works, since it appeared on their websites and, by law, their guidelines must be supported by scientific research. As a result, the government, having found no positive research that examined the effects of flossing, removed the recommendation from its websites and Dietary Guidelines.

The AP report went on to outline the research into flossing it examined and found that most evidence was either unreliable, inconsistent or weak as a result of small sample sizes, too short a duration in the study or other flawed methods. Even further, they said flossing can “cause harm” when done incorrectly, damaging teeth and gums.

Media took the report and ran with it, splashing headlines all over the internet that claimed that flossing was a “waste of time,” “completely unnecessary,” or, worse yet, “harmful.” Much of the media blew the report out of proportion — the AP report actually makes no claim as to whether or not you should floss.

Dentists react to flossing claims

The response to the report (and subsequent media outrage) from dentists and orthodontists was swift and clear: there may be a lack of hard scientific evidence that 100% proves that flossing works, but you should still listen to your dentist.

First, they said, flossing includes more than the long, thin waxed strings most commonly associated with the practice. Flossing is more broadly called interdental cleaning, and there are many other ways to do it: toothpicks, water flossers (also called oral irrigators) and tiny brushes. And the research that is available should not totally be discounted — while the AP may have discounted some of it due to flawed methods or unreliability, some research does indicate positive effects in the management of gingivitis when flossing.

Furthermore, there is the issue of technique: just because someone flosses does not mean that they are doing it correctly. Flossing incorrectly can cause damage, especially if you are too rough or pushing bacteria into your gum instead of lifting it out.

Regular flossing: low risk, low cost, potential rewards

Despite the report, dentists and dental care and oral health organizations have stuck to their guns: flossing is still an important part of oral care. However, those who do want to floss should make sure they are doing it the right way:

Consult with a dentist: Patients should consult with their dentists or dental hygienist to ensure they are flossing correctly or learn how to do it the proper way.

Use the right tools: Some people hate the feeling of flossing — but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. There are countless tools to help, including interdental brushes and the increasingly popular handheld water or air flossers that may be more convenient and comfortable. When using a new type of interdental cleaner, ask your dentist to demonstrate how to use it.

Some people only floss when they’ve got something stuck in their teeth — and now, with this report, they may take it as proof that they don’t really need to. However, dentists still strongly recommend that you incorporate flossing as part of your regular dental care routine — provided they do it the right way.

Contact us at TruFamily Dental to make an appointment today.

Posted In: Oral & Dental Health Tips