You may have seen recent news articles saying that you don’t need to floss anymore.
There have been hundreds of news outlets talking about flossing recently, each with their own attention-grabbing headline on the topic of flossing:
- Feeling Guilty About Not Flossing? Maybe There’s No Need (New York Times)
- No Strong Proof that Flossing your Teeth has Medical Benefit (CBC)
- So Much for Flossing (Globe and Mail)
- Flossing Teeth Does Little Good (Telegraph)
I’m sure there were a lot of people that were happy to see those headlines and never floss (or feel guilty for not flossing) again. But it’s not that simple. Not even close and we’re definitely still recommending that our patients keep flossing.
So what started all this?
All this buzz about flossing came about because of the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans. As of 2010, these guidelines included “A combined approach of reducing the amount of time sugars and starches are in the mouth, drinking fluoridated water, and brushing and flossing teeth, is the most effective way to reduce dental caries.”
These guidelines are released every 5 years and the 2015 version did not include them.
Why is Flossing No Longer Recommended?
Under U.S law, these recommendations must be based on scientific evidence. After the Associated Press used a Freedom of Information Act request to ask for the evidence, the U.S. government acknowledged the effectiveness of flossing had never been well researched.
There are studies but they’re just not very good ones. Most research used outdated methods or tested few people.
A 2015 review published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology also concluded “the majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal.”
So, that recommendation is no longer in the dietary guidelines… but that doesn’t mean it won’t be back in there.
All that it means is there’s a lack of evidence or good studies to prove flossing works but there’s NO evidence that it doesn’t work. All we need is one well-funded, well-designed study, to prove that flossing is effective and this argument will be over.
Much Easier Said Than Done:
The problem with trying to do a study like this is that, in order to really prove the effectiveness of flossing, it has to be done in a real world study.
In fact, lab studies have shown that flossing does indeed reduce inflammation and bleeding of the gums, indicating that it could theoretically prevent gum disease BUT these studies only lasted a few weeks. It’s just not enough time to track the development of long-term disease.
The next step to showing the efficacy of flossing is a real world study, comparing flossers and non-flossers. You’d have to follow both groups for years, ensuring they’re flossing regularly and properly, which is expensive and time-consuming for the government agencies that fund these studies. Because flossing is just not that high on the priority list of health research, it could be awhile before proper research is done.
It’s too soon to Stop Flossing:
In the meantime, we recommend that you keep flossing. Flossing is quick, it’s low cost and it’s painless. If it takes years for the evidence to conclude that flossing does indeed help your oral health, that’s years without flossing that you could be increasing your risk of gum disease, tartar build-up, and tooth decay.
We’ve found in our practice, that people who don’t floss or otherwise clean between their
Teeth leave deposits of tartar that inflames tissues, destroys bone, causes bad breath and leads to cavities.
Brushing alone cannot reach the crevices between your teeth so I’m confident that solid research will show its effectiveness.
In fact, the Canadian Dental Association’s is still recommending brushing and flossing as the two most important ways to care for your teeth. Their website states “Flossing removes plaque and bacteria that you cannot reach with your toothbrush. If you don’t floss, you are missing more than one-third of your tooth surface.”
Dr. Nathan Jeal is the owner of Avant Dental in Winnipeg Manitoba. He’s been practicing dentistry since 2011. Dr. Jeal knows that a great dentist is always learning, which is why he has put in hundreds of hours in continuing education. Through those hours, he has earned certifications in dental implant surgery, implant restoration, CAD/CAM computerized dentistry, and he is an Invisalign Premier Provider.
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