The Facts about Flossing

man flossing teeth in mirror

This August, the US Department of Health and Human Services removed “flossing” from its list of recommended health practices. Since then, sources such as the New York Times, The Daily News, and the BBC have published articles famously questioning the efficacy of the famously under appreciated hygiene method. Although there is no doubt that news sources will continue to cover the back-and-forth about flossing, the answer still remains: flossing is an essential part of your daily dental routines. Here are some of the reasons you may have heard that flossing doesn’t do much for your teeth – and why these assumptions are false.

1. “There are no studies that connect flossing and increased risk of gum disease.” The main reason that flossing was removed from proven healthy practices by the US Health Department was because of a lack of proof that flossing helps prevent gum disease. However, gum disease can take years to develop – and these studies that attempt to link flossing to gum disease tend to last for weeks or months at most. Because these studies are short-term, scientists can only hypothesize that increased gum health from flossing will decrease the risk of gum disease.

2. “You can’t prove that.” That’s partially true, for now. But that’s because there is a lack of studies conducted over a long-term period that can link flossing to gum disease risk, and not because there is a lack of evidence to support that connection. What the studies can prove is that flossing promotes gum strength and decreases inflammation and gingivitis – and researchers and dentists alike will agree that decreasing your risk for these short-term complications will also help prevent gum disease in the future.

3. “I can get along just fine without flossing as long as I brush my teeth.” According to a study by the American Academy of Periodontology, 15% of adults would prefer to clean a toilet than floss their teeth. And thanks to the recent hubbub over the “lack of necessity” of flossing, many adults may find relief in hearing that they don’t have to floss. But walk into any dentist’s office across the country, and you’ll hear one thing: Brush AND floss. Although studies on flossing haven’t followed test subjects for long enough to prove any long-term benefits, dentists agree that flossing is an essential component of your health regime. True, it’s easy to floss less than necessary and lie to your dentist about it. But some forms of “biofilms” – the bacteria that build up in your mouth – can only be removed by flossing the regions not reachable with a toothbrush. And in terms of your oral health, two methods are better than one.