Is Flossing Really That Important?

Woman using dental floss

By now, many of you may have heard the news: according to the associated press, flossing hasn’t actually been scientifically proven to help prevent tooth decay. Don’t throw out your floss just yet, though– the story is more complicated than it seems!

Do We Really Have to Floss?

According to the article–published August of last year–much of the evidence that supports floss was based on loose or faulty studies. Which is why some think that the recommendation to floss was removed from the federal government’s dietary guidelines in 2016. According to the AP, “the government acknowledged the effectiveness of flossing had never been researched as required.”

That’s not to say that flossing is pointless. Flossing has been an important part of dental health for over a hundred years (fun fact: did you know the patent for floss was issued in 1874?) Mostly, the article talks about how the proper scientific testing required by the US Government just hasn’t happened. According to the article, the studies chosen to prove how effective flossing was “used outdated methods” or “tested few people” (such as the one that tested only 25 people who flossed once.)

The Article Is More about Testing Regulations Than Data

With more than a century of anecdotal evidence, though, it’s hard to argue with dentists who say “…  I have no hesitation still telling my patients to floss.” According to their article on LiveScience.com, a large number of dentists still recommend flossing, no matter what the article in the AP says. “We know that plaque […] causes gum disease. We know that; that’s not in dispute,” says Dr. Edmond Hewlett of the ADA and the UCLA School of Dentistry. Flossing (and other interdental cleaning methods, such as dental irrigation) removes plaque from hard-to-reach areas in your mouth. If you’re not a science-minded person, then plainly stated:

“There are five surfaces on each tooth, including three that a brush can clean (the front, back and top or bottom of the tooth), and two that require flossing to clean (the sides of the tooth that are adjacent to other teeth).”

Since flossing is a low-impact, cost-effective method of cleaning these hard-to-reach areas, we can recommend it without hesitation. Flossing can help protect you against gum disease and reduce your need for fillings on the surfaces adjacent to neighboring teeth.

The only concern we would have is how you’re flossing! Like most of the authors of the article, we agree that flossing shouldn’t hurt– if you’re bleeding or sore after flossing, you should ask your dentist about proper techniques. “Sawing” isn’t what you’re looking for! A gentle up and down on the side of your tooth is all you need.

It seems pretty clear to us here at Oasis Dental Arts that flossing is still important. It’s important to remember that the phrase “needs better testing” and “doesn’t help” are two completely different things.

If you’re still in doubt, contact Oasis Dental Arts online or on the phone at (858) 271-1010 with any questions you may have about flossing and dental health. If you’re in the Scripps Ranch area, schedule a dentist appointment! Dr. Goshtasbi would love to speak with you about how to keep your mouth looking great! (You can learn more about Dr. G here!)