A recent report by the Associated Press has many patients asking whether they should be flossing. Despite the report’s claim (which isn’t entirely wrong) that the evidence in favor of flossing is “little” and “weak,” everyone should still floss their teeth each day. Here’s a look at some reasons why the evidence in favor of flossing doesn’t meet certain standards, and why people should still floss in spite of the research’s shortcomings.
The Problems with Researching Flossing
The claims against flossing can be summarized fairly easily. In short, there aren’t any definitive, long-term studies that prove flossing prevents oral disease. Admittedly, this is true. This is also likely why the federal government revoked their flossing recommendation, which had been in place since 1979. All federal recommendations must be backed by definitive research, and the studies that support flossing aren’t error-proof.
There are a number of reasons why the studies on flossing aren’t perfect. It simply isn’t easy to study flossing. Consider this:
Gum disease can take 15 years to develop, so it’s hard to study directly.
There’s no way to know how well or poorly people floss at home.
Researchers can’t tell people to not floss, because flossing is good and telling people not to do a good thing would be unethical.
People are likely to floss better than they otherwise would if they know they’re part of a flossing-related study.
These and similar issues make it hard to conduct a study that directly looks at flossing’s impact on oral disease, which is why the available research doesn’t meet all desired standards.
Regardless, People Should Still Floss
Despite the incomplete evidence, people should still floss. A lack of evidence doesn’t necessarily mean there is a lack of effectiveness.
There’s a debate over the state of research, but people aren’t debating whether flossing is actually an effective dental hygiene practice. It’s widely recognized as a good practice and is still recommended by many. Although the federal government had to remove their recommendation for legal reasons, the American Dental Association, National Institutes of Health and American Academy of Periodontology all still recommend flossing. Many dentists themselves also still recommend flossing.
So why is flossing good for you? Let's take it in steps:
Food particles and plaque in the mouth foster bacterial growth.
Bacteria cause tooth decay and gum disease.
Flossing removes food particles and plaque from places where your toothbrush can’t reach.
Therefore, flossing is good for oral health!
Of course, it’s also important to floss properly. Incorrect flossing isn’t nearly as effective as proper flossing. When flossing, you should form a “C” shape with the floss around each tooth and move the floss up and down firmly against the tooth.
Learn to Floss from a Hygienist or Dentist
The best way to learn to floss is to have a dentist show you. To make sure your children learn how to floss correctly at a young age, make an appointment with Dr. Jody L. Wright. An experienced pediatric dentist, Dr. Wright can teach your kids how to floss and check for developing gum disease. For an appointment, contact Wright Smiles Pediatric Dentistry.