RECENT HEADLINE: “Is Flossing a Waste of Your Time?”

Please do more than just reading the headline!

Daily flossing was dropped from the nutrition guidelines produced by the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services this year.  Why?  They state “because the effectiveness of flossing had never been researched, as required”.  This is not entirely true.

A review of 12 separate studies regarding this topic ( shows the following:

  1. Flossing and brushing reduces the risks of gingivitis significantly compared to brushing alone.
  2. There was no evidence of reduction in plaque
  3. The studies did not go on long enough to confirm nor deny the reduction in caries (tooth decay)

Gingivitis is the bleeding and mild inflammation of the gums.  It is early stages of periodontal disease.  Untreated, it can lead to periodontitis, bone loss, infection and loss of teeth.

The problem: the trials were deemed to be of poor quality and the results were unreliable.  Hopefully, this will lead to better research on the benefits of flossing in addition to brushing.  I think the manufacturers of floss would want to push for this research to be done.  Long term controlled studies should be forthcoming.

Based on my experience and observations, my recommendation is: KEEP FLOSSING!  The benefits of proper flossing outweigh any real or perceived risks. No brush can get to the tight spaces between teeth.  Mouthwashes and rinses do not remove any debris caught between teeth.  Anecdotally, I have seen patients with beginning carious lesions between their teeth halt the progression of the decay and avoid having the have fillings done by simply adding this one simply thing (flossing) to their daily routine.