Reports doubting value of flossing leave gap

People did a double take last week when news outlets everywhere reported on flossing.

I saw headlines ranging from “Flossing not effective” to “No need to floss, Us Health Department says.” The Associated Press writer Jeff Donn’s article, printed Aug. 5 in the Union Bulletin under the headline “Feds remove flossing recommendation, cite lack of research,” was well done.

As a dental hygienist, it got my attention right away. I knew my patients were definitely going to ask me about these reports.

So what does it all mean?

Every five years, the U.S. government publishes the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” By law all the recommendations in this publication need to be backed by scientific evidence. For more than 30 years, these guidelines have said people should use floss once a day.

The Associated press asked to see the evidence used to develop these flossing guidelines and, well, reported the research is not good enough. Several studies cited were designed with severe flaws. For example, one report said one of the studies only had participants floss one time before being evaluated for effectiveness. This is not enough on which to base a nationwide recommendation.

What this means is that the effectiveness of dental floss has not been well researched. It also means the government won’t recommend using floss unless a well done study is available, which can take years to develop.

What this does not mean is that flossing is ineffective or dangerous, that you should not use floss, or that your dental professional will stop recommending the use of floss.

I recommend cleaning daily between your teeth with tools such as – but not limited to- floss. Here are a few reasons why:


• Plaque growing on the sides of teeth causes tarter to grow there, too

• Plaque and tarter make homes for bacteria

• Bacteria can cause tooth decay and inflamed gums

• Bacteria can enter the body through inflamed gums, where they may contribute to heart disease and other maladies

• Inflamed gums smell bad

• Inflamed gums make your dental cleanings more complicated and less fun

• Cleaning the sides of your teeth that the toothbrush cannot reach can address the problems mention above.


For me, the bottom line is this- if you want your mouth to look, smell and feel clean, you will need to remove as much plaque as possible.

The very best brusher in the world cannot remove plaque from all surfaces with just a toothbrush.

This is why toothpicks, tiny interproximal brushes, flosses and floss are needed are needed, no matter what our government recommends.


Article by Kim Glover