If you are one of the 50 percent of Americans who admit to flossing less than the dentist-recommended once per day, we may have good news for you—flossing every day may be unnecessary. But the conscientious among you need not worry! If you’re among the half of Americans who admit they floss every day, there may be welcome news for you, too: Flossing may be the vital dental practice we’ve always been led to believe it is.
Confused? We don’t blame you. A recent series of news reports on the importance of flossing has ignited a debate over a question few ever thought to ask: is it really that important to floss every day? Let’s sort it out.
The science behind flossing every day?
The title of this section may perfectly summarize the argument of those in the “flossing may not matter” camp. According to several studies cited by this thought-provoking New York Times story, there is little to no scientific evidence that flossing every day does much, if anything at all, for your teeth. “A review of 12 randomized controlled trials published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2011 found only ‘very unreliable’ evidence that flossing might reduce plaque after one and three months,” the article reads.
The story also notes that the science behind flossing is so shaky, the American Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services removed flossing from its list of dietary guidelines. After all, if there’s little scientific evidence to back up what dentists recommend to us every visit, how can their recommendations be justified?
The dentist community had something to say about this
Dentists were less than thrilled with the publicity garnered by the flossing backlash. In August of 2016, the American Dental Association issued a statement, saying “Although recent news reports have questioned the benefits of cleaning between your teeth, using an interdental cleaner (like floss) is an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums.” The Association stressed that flossing helps prevent the accumulation of plaque, which can become tartar.
So what to make of this contradiction? We have scientists telling us that dentists may not be entirely justified in telling us to floss every day, and dentists telling us that those scientists are misleading us. The Times article may reconcile the two sides of this debate. As the story notes, science tells us flossing can be effective, just not the way we normally do it. “When professionals flossed the teeth of children on school days for almost two years, they saw a 40 percent reduction in the risk of cavities. So maybe perfect flossing is effective.”
This isn’t to say we need to be flawless in our flossing in order to make the activity worthwhile. It does show that even skeptics can admit we could all floss a little better.
Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and it is not meant to be relied on as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your physician before starting any exercise or dietary program or taking any other action respecting your health. In case of a medical emergency, call 911.