It seemed like simple, obvious health advice that would always hold true: eat your vegetables, exercise, and floss your teeth. Turns out that despite being recommended by numerous scientists and universities, the effectiveness of flossing has never been researched. At least according to a new report from the Associated Press and numerous headlines you might have read over the past two weeks.
Associated Press Flossing Report
If you’ve missed the story, here’s what happened. The US government has recommended flossing for nearly four decades: first in a surgeon general’s report and later in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Under the law, these guidelines issued every five years must be based on scientific evidence. Last year, the Associated Press asked the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture for scientific evidence supporting benefits of flossing. Then AP followed up with a written requests under the Freedom of Information Act. When the federal government issued its latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans this year, the flossing recommendation had been removed. In a letter to the AP, the government acknowledged the effectiveness of flossing had never been researched, as required.
However, as always, there is more to the story. While in the past these guidelines acknowledged the importance of flossing, they are not particularly focused on dental or oral health, but rather on dietary consumption and its health-related factors. The recent omission of flossing sparked immediate headlines that flossing has no benefit. However, the findings actually said that the existing studies were of poor quality. That is, that flossing and brushing had very weak correlation with reduced amounts of plaque compared to brushing alone. While most readers will only want to focus on “little benefit compared to brushing alone,” the first part of the sentence is important. The assessed studies were of poor quality, meaning that more studies need to be done, not that flossing does not have health benefits.
It is important to note that the American Dental Association, which is the leading source of oral health information, still recommends to floss once a day to remove plaque that toothbrushes cannot reach. It’s easy to read what you want from headlines, but we recommend you floss on. Experts say that not flossing lets plaque, the thin film of bacteria that clings to teeth and builds up during the day, to become tartar, a hard deposit that can irritate gums. That tartar buildup can, in turn, cause the gums to recede. Worse, it could create a gap between the gum and the tooth, which could get infected and lead to gum disease.
Your Favorite Los Angeles Dentist Says Keep Flossing
While it may be tempting to jump at the opportunity to not floss after the recent Associated Press report, as your favorite Downtown Los Angeles dentists we urge you to keep flossing. And of course to visit our downtown dental office regularly for your semi-annual dental cleanings. Because maintaining your teeth and gums on a regular basis helps prevent bad breath, gingivitis, and tooth decay. While daily flossing and brushing are fundamental for good oral hygiene, semi-annual visits to your dentist’s office for dental cleaning help to ensure the complete removal of tartar – the sticky, colorless film of bacteria that hardens on teeth.
Ultrasonic teeth cleaning used by our dentists and hygienist is a particularly effective way to dislodge stubborn tartar that has adhered to teeth. Plus, if you take advantage of regular dental cleanings, you may be able to save money in the long run by helping to protect your oral health and potentially avoiding more costly and extensive dental procedures.