At this point you’ve probably read a recent report making national headlines calling flossing a waste of time. According to the Associated Press report, “there is a striking lack of evidence to show that daily flossing actually prevents gum disease and tooth decay”. This has left many of our patients in the South End of Boston asking, “Have dentists been wrong this whole time?”
Since 1979 the federal government had recommended daily flossing as part of its Dietary Guidelines. By law, every Guideline must be based on scientific research. The AP claims that last year when they began asking the feds to share their evidence, mostly “weak”, “unreliable”, and “very low-quality” research was presented. Since the beginning of 2016 the Federal Government has removed their flossing recommendation (which many believe is directly related to the AP pushing for more conclusive evidence).
As a highly respected dental clinic in Boston we as a team find this whole ordeal very irresponsible. Although there haven’t been long-term, large-scale clinical studies definitively showing that flossing fends off oral diseases, the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Periodontology, and the National Institutes of Health all stand firmly behind the practice of daily flossing.
“Here’s the thing,” says Dr. Wayne Aldredge, president of the American Academy of Periodontology. “A lack of quality evidence is not indicative of a lack of effectiveness. There is no dispute over whether flossing removes plaque and debris ? it does. Since prolonged exposure to the bacteria in plaque may lead to gum disease, removing it is advised.” He says flossing is required to expunge the plaque that often lurks deep between the teeth and beneath the gums ? places your toothbrush can’t always reach.
Think of it like cigarette smoking, the majority of educated Americans know that smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer. However, the actual research out there supporting this is from observational studies. Observational studies are those in which researchers examine the health of a group of people without directing what they eat, which medications they take, how often they exercise, and so on. Imagine how disturbing it would be to ask participants to smoke (vs. not smoke) for 20 years and then sit back and watch who ended up contracting cancer.
The verdict: KEEP FLOSSING YOUR TEETH. Flossing in the South End of Boston at least every 24 hours should be sufficient in removing bacteria-laden plaque and lowering your risk of oral diseases. Besides, what do you have to lose? The risk of negative affects is almost nonexistent and the cost is very low. So despite the current controversy, Tremont Dental Care recommends all of our patients to continue to brush and floss daily.