The report, Medical benefits of dental floss unproven, claims the AP looked at “the most rigorous research conducted over the past decade, focusing on 25 studies” that compared using just a toothbrush against the use of toothbrushes and floss.
Since 1979, the federal government has recommended flossing in its Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The AP questioned if the recommendations were based on scientific evidence, as the law stipulates. Flossing recommendations were dropped when the 2016 Dietary Guidelines were issued.
He noted there are key variables that make it difficult to form conclusions based on statistical analysis. “Every individual’s mouth is different and the position of the teeth are different.”
Some people may find that because of the shape of their teeth that food is easily dislodged when drinking water or brushing. For those people, flossing won’t be as critical.
For a large part of the population, there’s no other way to effectively clean between the teeth except by flossing. Brushing won’t do it nor will drinking and swishing water.
There are other variables like diet, says Dr. Saleh, that affect the amount of bacteria. Just like teeth have different shapes from one mouth to another, one person who may only floss occasionally could have a much stronger immune system and not be as prone to inflammation of the gums or other conditions.
Dr. Saleh says more accurate findings would be made by speaking directly to clinicians. Patients who come to his office with problems like inflammation of the gums are placed on a strict regimen of care that includes regular flossing.
“We see improvements and see firsthand that flossing is effective,” he says. “We offer flossing as a way to prevent further issues.”
Dr. Saleh says to take care when flossing. “If it’s done improperly by jamming hard in tight spaces then it can cut into the gums. When flossing and passing through the click, one should gently hug the tooth. Technique is important and that’s why it’s good to take direction from a professional.
He also noted that some types of floss, liked waxed floss, are more effective than others.
The AP may say its research led to the government retracting an unnecessary guideline, but Dr. Saleh, who studied at King’s College London, one of the top dental schools in the world, is convinced that Americans who don’t floss are more prone to the negative results of bacteria in the mouth: bad breath, plaque buildup, and more serious conditions like gingivitis.
Don’t take a chance, he says. Be sure to floss.