As evident by the numerous numbers of patients who have asked me this question during the last couple of weeks, obviously the news story stating there are no benefits to flossing was heard/read by many, many people. I have to hand it to our media (and we already know this,) they sure know how to twist a story to make news!
Apparently, the federal government has been recommending flossing since 1979, but when recently asked by The Associated Press to provide the scientific evidence of flossing’s benefits, the government quietly slipped the recommendation out of its latest dietary guidelines. When the AP followed up, the government confessed that the effectiveness of flossing had not actually been researched to the extent required. The AP then hit the stands with the message that flossing isn’t necessary because the government no longer listed it in its guidelines.
This article is not really about the ineffectiveness of flossing but having the proper supporting to research to legally make the recommendation in the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans report from the surgeon general. In order to include flossing as part of the guidelines, the law states there must be evidenced based science to support it. When the flossing literature was reviewed the studies were weak, poorly done, unreliable, biased, very low quality or lacked efficacy and it was decided the available scientific evidence was not really there.
As a practitioner of 30 years, currently working with 4 associate doctors and ten dental hygienists, we evaluate the periodontal health of many people every single day. Our responsibility is to evaluate for the presence of gum inflammation and disease. Comprehensive and very costly studies wanted by the government aside, it is easy for us to determine for most patients who has been flossing, or more importantly, who hasn’t, by the condition and health of their gums.
The fact of unavailable evidence should not be confused with the concept that it is not worthwhile to clean in between your teeth. The government simply said the research to prove the effectiveness of flossing has not been done to satisfaction and if flossing is going to be listed in the Guidelines, the supporting research needs to be there. So the press did what they do best; take a nothing story and twist the words a bit to create a media splash that suggests to the world that something we thought to be helpful is a waste of time. It is ultimately your call to floss or not, but if you don’t manage your biofilm load (a fancy phrase for oral bacteria,) and if you are disease susceptible, rest assured your health WILL suffer. For me, I floss because I want to closely manage my periodontal health. Regardless of what the media says, it will remain a part of my everyday regimen.
Dr. Gregory J. Austria, Owner, and Founder of the Brilliant Smiles Dental Offices
Beavercreek Dentist/Dentist Beavercreek/Affordable Dentist Beavercreek