Except there’s little proof that flossing works. Still, the federal government, dental organisations and manufacturers of floss have pushed the practice for decades. Dentists provide samples to their patients; the American Dental Assn. insists on its website: “Flossing is an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums.”
The US federal government has recommended flossing since 1979, first in a surgeon general’s report and later in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued every five years. The guidelines must be based on scientific evidence, under the law. Last year, the Associated Press asked the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture for their evidence, and followed up with written requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
When the federal government issued its latest dietary guidelines this year, the flossing recommendation had been removed, without notice. In a letter to the AP, the government acknowledged the effectiveness of flossing had never been researched, as required. The AP looked at the most rigourous research conducted over the last decade, focusing on 25 studies that generally compared the use of a toothbrush with the combination of toothbrushes and floss. The findings? The evidence for flossing is “weak, very unreliable,” of “very low” quality, and carries “a moderate to large potential for bias.” “The majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal,” said one review conducted last year. Another 2015 review cites “inconsistent/weak evidence” for flossing and a “lack of efficacy.”
Wayne Aldredge, president of the periodontists' group, acknowledged the weak scientific evidence and the brief duration of many studies. In an interview at his private practice in New Jersey, he said that the impact of floss might be clearer if researchers focused on patients at the highest risk of gum disease, such as diabetics and smokers. Still, he said he urges his patients to floss to help avoid 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.” Aldredge also said many people use floss incorrectly, moving it in a sawing motion instead of up and down the sides of the teeth.
— Source: www.latimes.com...