It’s not often that flossing makes the headlines, but in August 2016, this popular tooth cleaning approach made the news when the US government dropped its recommendation to floss. An investigation by the Associated Press (AP) had showed that there was little scientific evidence to back the claims that flossing helped to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Flossing does however, still help to reach and remove plaque that your tooth brush can’t reach.
Following the AP’s investigation, the US government admitted there was no scientific evidence to prove the benefits and quietly dropped the recommendation. By law, the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture, which is responsible for dental hygiene guidelines, can only give advice and recommendations to practices that have scientifically been proven to work.
The change in the US guidelines has led the NHS to review its own recommendations. Currently, its website states, “Dental floss helps to prevent gum disease by getting rid of pieces of food and plaque from between your teeth.”
A spokeswoman for Public Health England (PHE) told the Guardian that “it keeps abreast of the evidence base and will consider these findings”.
“Some people may not have large enough spaces in between their teeth to use an inter-dental brush, so flossing can be a useful alternative. Patients should speak to their dentist if they have any concerns,” she added.
The argument to floss or not is still raging both in the US and the UK; the American Dental Association came out and defended flossing saying it was an “essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums.”
The British Dental Association released a statement stating: “Small inter-dental brushes are best for cleaning the area in between the teeth, where there is space to do so. Floss is of little value unless the spaces between your teeth are too tight for the interdental brushes to fit without hurting or causing harm.”
It seems there are arguments for and against the floss debate, what we do know is that it’s important to clean in between your teeth either with interdental brushes or floss in order to remove any plaque and bits of food missed by your toothbrushing.