If you’ve watched the news at all in the last day or two, you’ve likely heard the latest on the flossing debate. While dental professionals around the world have been recommending a daily oral hygiene routine, including flossing at least once a day, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has come out and said that it’s actually not an effective practice. After reviewing and analyzing at least 25 studies on the effectiveness of flossing, they claim that the overall evidence (for flossing) is “weak, very unreliable,” and of “very low” quality with a “moderate to large potential for bias,” according to a recent NY Daily News article. One study from last year even said that “the majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal.” As a result, the department of Health and Human Services has removed flossing from its guidelines.
Does this mean you should ditch your floss (or quit feeling guilty about lying to your dentist about it)? Not exactly, according the the American Dental Association (ADA). In a statement following the news release, the ADA maintains that interdental cleaners, such as floss, are an essential part of taking care of teeth and gums. Furthermore, cleaning between teeth is an important part of removing plaque that can cause cavities or gum disease in the areas that can not be reached by toothbrush alone. According to the ADA, there are more than 500 bacterial species that can be found in plaque, some of which are good, and some of which are bad. When these bacterial species combine with food debris and other components, the plaque buildup around the teeth and gums can lead to disease. An interdental cleaner can help with eliminating plaque while keeping the teeth and gums free of debris. The ADA will continue to recommend an oral hygiene routine of brushing for two minutes twice daily, cleaning between teeth once a day, and regular dental visits.
Using an “interdental cleaner,” such as floss or a waterpik, is a personal choice. It always has been. Some people are religious about flossing, and they still get cavities. Others haven’t flossed in years, but are cavity-free. The bottom line is this. Oral health has been linked to a number of other serious health conditions, like cancer, diabetes, dementia, and heart disease. It is well documented that plaque contributes to the development of cavities and gum disease. It is also well known that you can reduce plaque buildup by keeping your teeth and gums clean. If floss helps to rid your mouth of food particles and minor plaque buildups, why wouldn’t you take the extra minute (at most) to do it? Why wouldn’t you want to do all that you can to achieve good oral health, especially when it’s so easy? Before you decide to toss your floss, I urge you to discuss the issue with your dentist, and together you can determine what’s best for your health.