Do I really need to floss?
Never in my 30 year career as a dentist has one article stirred so much questioning, controversy, and disbelieve by my patients as the August 2, 2016 article written by the Associated Press entitled “Medical benefits of dental floss unproven”.
The article points out that flossing recommendations were removed from this year’s federal Dietary Guidelines, without notice. The Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged to the AP that there is not enough scientific research to include flossing recommendations into their guidelines as required by law. Said another way, a review of flossing studies are fraught with research of short durations and small sample sizes thus making them inconclusive.
I just used three search engines researching: “lighting my hands on fire with matches”. Yup, didn’t find any peer reviewed credible research telling me not to do it because it is harmful, let alone painful. Common senses says don’t do it. Likewise, the lack of credible scientific studies on flossing does not mean it’s not good for you. It simply means there is not enough research to scientifically prove what every dentist and hygienist observes every day; flossing keeps gums healthy and minimizes decay.
What has been scientifically proven is that food debris and bacterial form a complex bacterial matrix between the teeth that make one much more prone to cavities and gum disease. Brushing alone only cleans 60% of the tooth surface; the other 40% is between the teeth – right under where the floss snaps through between teeth. Dentistry has evolved into what is called Evidence Based Dentistry (EBD). It has become the golden Standard of Care. By definition, EBD combines the best clinical research, the patient’s needs, and the expertise and daily observations made by practicing dentists in decision making and treatment planning. Where the AP article fails the public is that it leaves out the daily observations and conclusions made by clinicians about flossing.
The AP article also falsely accuses dentists and the manufactures of dental hygiene products of promoting a multibillion dollar industry that has no proven benefit. I wonder how much money I could have saved over the past 30 years if every patient seen by my hygienists didn’t walk out of my office with floss or other flossing aides!
So too bad we couldn’t take a few of those “floss doubters” and have them follow me or any dentist around for a week. We could teach you what healthy gums, aided by flossing, look like. Unhealthy gums are easy to spot – they are red, inflamed, and bleed when touched. Then we can look at the records of those that floss and those that don’t floss. If we compare these two categories, the non-flossers spend much more time and money paying for dental treatment they could have prevented. But please remember we are there for you when you need us, even if it’s because you don’t floss
Trumbull Dental Arts, Alison Kudish, DMD
Trumbull, CT 06611
Office: (203) 377-0638