To Floss or Not To Floss…
In the press recently there’s been a lot of coverage over whether flossing actually does any good or whether it’s a waste of time… Here’s our take on things…
Earlier this summer the US Government dropped flossing from its latest guidelines due to a lack of research showing that it actually helps remove plaque effectively (by law, the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” must be based on scientific evidence).
In the UK, the British Dental Association and the Oral Health Foundation responded by agreeing that there is no evidence that flossing is actually good for your health…
These conclusions were based on 25 or so scientific studies that are currently available.
Unfortunately, most of the studies that have been done on flossing have used outdated research methods, tested too few subjects, or didn’t last long enough.
For example, some research lasted only 2 weeks – far too short to see whether flossing can prevent a cavity developing or not. And one study tested just 25 people after only a single use of floss…
Clearly more research is needed, and we have a feeling that if a suitable long-term study were done on enough participants, the results would be more supportive of flossing. Even if its effectiveness at removing plaque is unclear, at the very least it’s still an extremely effective way to remove food debris from between the teeth…
And many leading dentists such as Wayne Aldredge – president of the American Academy of Periodontology – still recommend flossing in order to prevent gum disease. “It’s like building a house and not painting two sides of it,” he said. “Ultimately those two sides are going to rot away quicker.”
So what’s our take on flossing here at Euro Dental Care? Is it a waste of time or would you be better off spending a minute or two cleaning between your teeth with your dental floss each day?
We agree with Dr Aldredge. Based on what we see every day, we believe that it’s important to clean all of the surfaces of your teeth regularly (and by that we mean twice a day!)
For many people, cleaning between the teeth with an interdental brush just isn’t possible because their teeth aren’t spaced widely enough apart. In these cases, dental floss is ideal because it’s often the only way to get between the teeth (although it’s important that it’s used correctly – see “How to Floss” on page 5).
‘Floss is of little value unless the spaces between your teeth are too tight for the interdental brushes to fit without hurting or causing harm.’ Professor Damien Walmsley, scientific adviser to the British Dental Association.
If you’ve ever flossed before, you’ll know just how effective flossing can be at removing food that’s left between the teeth after a meal.
And if you’ve only flossed occasionally, you’ve probably noticed just how bad the decayed food that comes out on the floss can smell – a clear reason to hold on to that floss for a while!
Some people have difficulty using floss. For example, for men with large hands it can be difficult to get the floss in place, especially at the back of the mouth.
In these cases you may find it easier to use a floss pick (a small fork with a section of floss between the picks) that you can slide up and down between the teeth.
If you do have slightly wider spaces between your teeth, we recommend that you use an interdental brush as these are easier to manipulate and therefore tend to be more effective at cleaning between the teeth than floss.
So, our conclusion “to floss or not to floss:” we recommend flossing if it’s the only way you can clean between your teeth (it’s important to remove the food particles that tend to stick there – and no-one debates how effective floss is at doing that!) However, you still need to use good technique. IF you can get an interdental brush in between the gaps in your teeth, we’d recommend doing that over flossing.