Flossing: Is It Worth All the Hassle?

Clinical Studies for Floss Are Biased

In 2010, research found that 85% of industry-funded studies reported positive results. Contrarily, only 50% of government-funded studies had favorable outcomes. Then, a study, conducted in 2014 found that 97% of “head-to-head” randomized clinical trials favored the sponsor’s product.

Unsurprisingly, the same biased research is evident in flossing. According to the Cochrane review, the objective of industry-funded studies meant to compare the effectiveness of floss to other products. Ultimately, it boiled down to whether floss worked better than mouthwash. No studies focused on the benefits of flossing versus not flossing. The studies that do exist, however, are short trial periods. Therefore, questions arise as to the long-term benefits of floss.

Research about Floss Is Weak and Unreliable

Last year, the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services dropped flossing from the United States Dietary Guidelines. The government admitted that the scientific evidence to support the original proposal for floss was weak with several loose variables. As such, they removed the recommendation.

One review article— written by Dutch researchers in 2008— concluded that their research was both weak and unreliable. Since all 12 of their trials only followed study participants for 1 to 3 months, researchers suggested that the few benefits could be a trial effect (trial effect means participants are more compliant within a clinical trial setting). Ultimately, the researchers found that regularly flossing had no real effect on gingivitis or plaque.

Future research hopefully will investigate the long-term benefits– if any– of flossing. However, Tim Iafolla, dentist with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, says tracking long-term effects of flossing wouldn’t be cheap or easy.

Flossing Remains Dentist Recommended

Because of the weak or non-existent evidence to support flossing, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services chose instead to focus more on the effects of sugars on dental health. However, though flossing was dropped from the guidelines, it does not mean that the committee deems flossing unimportant.

The spokesperson for the committee cautions that flossing remains a critical oral hygiene practice. Dentists still recommend flossing in addition to brushing teeth. After practicing dentistry for 32 years, Joan Otomo-Corgel, a periodontist with the American Academy of Periodontology, argues that flossing helps remove bacteria film that accumulates between teeth and causes infections.

Another periodontist, Ivette Palata, also affirms the importance of flossing, especially when patients are struggling with bad breath, bleeding, and inflammation, which may lead to gum disease. Shockingly, Palata says that nearly 40% of adults unknowingly have some form of gum disease– a disease that is connected to other systemic diseases. Studies link gum disease to kidney disease, diabetes, and heart disease. Turns out a good smile is good for health.

Ask Your Dentist

Since dental insurance is not included in the Affordable Care Act’s essential benefits, some may not see a dentist regularly. This can be exceptionally bad for non-flossers as they may be more prone to gum disease. Some signs to look for are swelling, redness, tenderness, and bleeding in your gums. If any or all symptoms apply, then it’s time to consider a trip to the dentist as it may be serious. And as per usual, they’ll recommend flossing on a daily basis.

Since oral hygiene is important for overall health, make sure you see your dentist at least once a year! If you do not have dental insurance, contact us today! One of our agents will find you the best, most affordable dental plan.

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We hope that this information on flossing is helpful for you.

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