Flossing is one of those habits that can be tricky to incorporate into your daily life. Often, our patients are skeptical about whether they really need to be going the extra mile to make sure they floss regularly. Despite some controversy surrounding the issue, we’d like to offer a resounding yes to the question of whether you should be flossing regularly.
Flossing: What the Research Says
The controversy surrounding flossing began when the U.S. government removed flossing from dietary guidelines in 2015. Many news reports sensationalized the issue, calling the practice of regular flossing into question and even going so far as to suggest that it is altogether useless. But the explanation for the government’s decision is not so simple. Harvard Men’s Health Watch boils the issue down: the research that’s been done on flossing does not meet certain standards. They explain, “Part of the problem is that most flossing research is a challenge to interpret… many studies are short-term, covering only three to six months. In this time frame, the addition of flossing to regular tooth-brushing lowers the risk of gum inflammation (gingivitis). Yet, bone loss from gum infection (periodontitis) and cavities may take longer to develop, so how flossing may help with these problems is unknown.”
So, the research is not entirely conclusive because it was not designed to evaluate the long-term effects of flossing on oral health. Even so, we caution patients against dismissing it along with recommendations from several health organizations to continue flossing.
Flossing: An Ounce of Prevention
The government’s decision to amend dietary guidelines did not change the American Dental Association’s stance on flossing, nor, as they point out, did it have any “bearing on the longstanding recommendation from the Surgeon General, the CDC, and other health agencies to clean between teeth daily.” These organizations resoundingly agree that regular flossing remains the best defense against the buildup of plaque–sticky, stubborn bacteria–on teeth and gums. Plaque produces harmful acids that eat away at the surface of your teeth and irritate the gums; it causes both cavities and gum disease when left to build up on its own. Even with regular cleanings at your dentist every 6 months, you risk substantial plaque accumulation without flossing.
So, don’t let sensationalism stand between you and your oral health! Keep flossing your teeth regularly, and reap the rewards for years to come.