Earlier this month, the AP created quite the buzz with an article on the government’s removal of flossing from the federal dietary guidelines. They cited a lack of clinical evidence supporting the act - based on their own review of 25 studies - as the reason for the change, and questioned whether flossing had any benefit at all. The American Dental Association and the federal government were quick to come to flossing’s defense, calling it an “important oral hygiene practice,” but the question is now out there. With all this fuss over flossing, we wanted to weigh in on just why it is so important to dental health.
Flossing, quite simply, goes where brushing can’t, removing bacterial build up from in between the teeth before it can harden into damaging plaque and calculus. If not removed, this build up of bacteria can cause inflammation and infection, leading to gum disease, tooth decay and potentially bone loss. We see the difference with our patients all the time - puffy, red, bleeding gums and cavities between teeth for our patients who don’t floss, and a happier, healthier smile for those who do. This video from Coco Floss gives a great visual of just how much build up floss can remove.
So what prompted the removal of flossing from the guidelines in the first place? According to the ADA’s statement, it was not really about a lack scientific research, which was not even reviewed by the 2015 committee. Rather, brushing and flossing are supporting recommendations to actual dietary changes, such as avoiding added sugars, which fall within the purview of these guidelines. Since flossing was not reviewed, it was not included, but that was certainly not meant to imply it is not important.
The studies reviewed by the AP certainly call to light a lack of scientific research into the practice of flossing, which may be due in part to the limited funding available for dental research as a whole. While a lack of evidence in no way proves a lack of benefit, we would welcome additional clinical studies on the benefits of flossing to support the clear evidence we see in our practice every day. Hopefully this article serves as incentive to fund more research!
Of course, flossing is just one piece of the puzzle. Check out our oral hygiene home care tips for our recommendations on your daily routine!