To Floss or Not to Floss?

Slacker flossers rejoice! The Associated Press recently reported that there’s apparently little scientific evidence to support that regular flossing is vital for reducing plaque (the gunky stuff between your teeth) that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Does this mean it’s time to toss the floss?

why we should still flossThe potential benefits of flossing are clear and the risks of doing it are few, unless you happen to enjoy flossing while you’re dining at a restaurant.

Flossing is really the most efficient way to remove the food and debris that gets trapped between your teeth that ultimately leads to the buildup of plaque, which causes tooth decay and periodontal disease (gum disease). And this can lead to tooth loss, which can negatively impact the overall quality of your life. Losing a tooth may limit what you can eat and it may create discomfort. Losing a tooth may also lead to cosmetic issues (don’t hide your smile) and it may also be costly – tooth extractions, dental implants and bridges, etc.

Basically, you’re overall health, not to mention financial health, could be affected by your oral health. So, why risk losing a tooth by not spending a few extra minutes each day cleaning out some of that debris between your teeth? Flossing is a low risk, low cost addition to your daily dental hygiene.

So why did the AP say that flossing doesn’t help? The AP relied upon information from recent studies that have not confirmed that flossing directly prevents decay and disease. These studies have not confirmed that flossing prevents decay and disease. But these studies have also not been disproven it either, as some lab research has shown to reduce gum inflammation and bleeding, which are indications that it could help to lower gum disease. However, these studies only took place for a few weeks, which was not enough time to track the possible development of any long-term gum disease.

But perhaps there’s another explanation to these recent studies: Maybe flossers just aren’t flossing correctly. Many people who floss think that all they need to do is just insert the floss between their teeth, yank out some remnants of food and call it good. But there’s more to flossing. There’s actually an art to the floss! In fact, the ADA suggests that flossers curve their floss into a “C” shape against every tooth and then firmly, but carefully, move it up and down. Learn more about the Art of Flossing here.

Overall, the gist of these new studies shows that more research is still needed. It also shows that science is continuously evolving. What might be considered bad for you one day, may later be considered to be not so bad.

Not flossing for a short period of time may not, in fact, result in any tooth decay or tooth loss. However, the long-term effects of going “flossless” may lead to chronic dental problems, such as cavities and gum disease, which are not always reversible.

With this in mind, perhaps the wise thing to do is to hedge your bets against tooth decay and gum disease and keep on flossing.