To Floss or Not to Floss? That is the Question.

There has been much said in recent weeks about that pesky habit your dentist and hygienist talk to you about every time you go in for a visit with them. Recently the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) has decided to not include flossing in their five year recommendations. In an article from Associated Press (AP), it was stated that this was based on the fact that there are not enough dependable clinical studies that show major differences between patients who floss and those who don’t. So, the question is should you floss or should you not worry about it?

Now, let’s clarify something. 

First, the DGAC has said that their recommendation had little to do with a lack of evidence to support flossing and more to do with the fact that they were focusing more on food and nutrient intake: for example, added sugar.

Second, looking at the studies that the AP brought into question, none of them said that flossing had ANY negative effect at all. Rather, the results were “weak” and/or “unreliable”.  So the studies were still praising the activity of flossing, there were just “weak” connections to a healthy mouth and some unreliable conclusions. These studies are hard to do because to truly get strong and reliable results, one would need a group of people to NOT floss for a certain length of time, as well as need a group of people to floss consistently for that same amount of time. Both of these criteria are hard to guarantee and make the ‘ideal’ study hard to come by.

Lastly, both the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) still continue to recommend flossing to everyone. Dentists and other health care professionals who see patients everyday and see the results of ‘proper oral hygiene’ versus ‘not caring for your teeth’, are still standing by the “floss once a day” standard. 

Our own Dr. Wilk weighed in on the matter, “Whether or not flossing is scientifically proven to fight plaque is of little consequence when I see patients on a daily basis who do and do not floss. I can tell you that those patients who floss have much better overall oral hygiene and a lower incidence of plaque and cavities between their teeth.”

Dr. Dowden estimated that of all the decay she diagnoses, “I would say that more than half is interproximal decay- decay between the teeth. It’s a major clinical problem.” 

While flossing is a cost effective, relatively easy and fast at-home treatment, we find that many of our patients don’t adhere to a consistent flossing routine, which in turn can lead to plaque build-up, cavities and sometimes gingivitis or periodontal disease.

At Grand Avenue Dental Care, we stand by the ADA and the AAP and recommend that our patients floss once a day, in addition to brushing for two minutes, two times a day. Perhaps there will be a study in the future that will strongly link flossing to a decrease in plaque build-up between teeth, but in the meantime, we see the results on a daily basis. We are confident that the practice of flossing your teeth is a good one and we encourage all of our patients to continue to make this a part of their daily routine. As always, if you have questions, please feel free to reach out to us or your dental health care professional.