To Floss or Not to Floss? Here’s the Answer
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October is National Dental Hygiene Month, the perfect time to address the great flossing debate of 2016.
A few months ago, the Associated Press published a story questioning the scientific research supporting the health benefits of flossing. The story circulated after investigative reporters learned two things: 1) few scientific studies were conducted to support flossing benefits; and 2) flossing was removed from the most recent government guidelines.
The ensuing media frenzy created mass confusion for flossers everywhere, forcing us to ask, “Is flossing really worth the effort?”
The American Dental Association (ADA) responded to this question with an emphatic, “YES!” According to the ADA, “the bottom line for dentists and patients is that a lack of strong evidence doesn’t equate to a lack of effectiveness.”
The ADA also clarified why flossing was removed from the government’s guidelines. It was not because government agencies changed their position on flossing, but because the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee decided to focus on the importance of a healthy diet and limiting added sugar.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also made a statement reaffirming the importance of flossing. It read:
“Flossing is an important oral hygiene practice. Tooth decay and gum disease can develop when plaque is allowed to build up on teeth and along the gum line. Professional cleaning, tooth brushing, and cleaning between teeth (i.e. flossing) … have been shown to disrupt and remove plaque.”
The Benefits of “Interdental Cleaners”
According to the ADA, “interdental cleaning” is an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums. Interdental cleaners includes dental floss, dental picks, pre-threaded flossers, and tiny brushes that reach between the teeth. So here are three important reasons not to toss the floss:
- Cleaning between teeth removes plaque that can lead to cavities and/or gum disease from the areas where a toothbrush can’t reach.
- Flossing is proven to help remove debris between teeth that can contribute to plaque buildup.
- More than 500 bacterial species can be found in plaque–some are good and some are bad for your mouth. Together with food debris, water and other components, the plaque buildup around the teeth and on the gum line will contribute to disease in teeth and gums.
The ADA says that whether you floss or use another interdental cleaner, it’s important to apply the proper technique for each tool to make sure it’s effective.
Talk to your dentist about how to use interdental cleaners. Also, the ADA has developed a great web resource at MouthHealthy.org to help you learn more about flossing and other interdental cleaners.
If you can spare 60 seconds, check out this ADA Dental Minute video about interdental cleaners and proper flossing technique.
After looking into the facts, it turns out the great flossing debate of 2016 is based more on misunderstanding and media hype than scientific facts. The ADA still recommends brushing twice a day (for two minutes each time) and cleaning between teeth once a day with an interdental cleaner (i.e. flossing) to maintain good oral health. And, don’t forget to schedule regular dentist appointments.
1. American Dental Association News Release: Federal Government, ADA Emphasize Importance of Flossing and Interdental Cleaners, August 04, 2016.
After looking into the facts, it turns out the great flossing debate of 2016 is based more on misunderstanding and media hype than scientific facts. The ADA still recommends brushing twice a day (for two minutes each time) and cleaning between teeth once a day with an interdental cleaner (i.e. flossing) to maintain good oral health.
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This information is provided for educational purposes only. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare providers regarding medical care or treatment, as recommendations, services or resources are not a substitute for the advice or recommendation of an individual's physician or healthcare provider. Services or treatment options may not be covered under an individual’s particular health plan.