When the Associated Press released its finding that called into questions whether flossing at all necessary or even effective, you could practically hear the cheers from people across the country at our downtown Portland dental office.
Finally, proof that flossing was always just a cruel trick the dental community has played on patients to make them feel silly and to waste their time. If was for the big floss companies, no one would ever think that running a piece of string between your teeth would ever have any kind of impact on your oral health. It was all one big scam!
Well, before you throw your floss away in a fit of righteous indignation, you may want to take a minute to hear what the oral health community has to say in response to the allegations against flossing. Here’s why you should continue to floss:
A Lack of Evidence Does Mean a Lack of Effectiveness
One of the biggest talking points in the AP’s review of flossing was the lack of available evidence that shows flossing has any impact on an individual’s oral health. However, it’s not like the oral health community was unaware about the lack of hard evidence when they continued to recommend daily flossing. But a lack of hard evidence doesn’t mean flossing has no merit. Flossing has some immediate benefits, such as helping to improve your breath by removing decaying food particles and smelly bacteria from between your teeth, and the potential for providing significant long-term benefits as well. Better to error on the side of caution rather than neglect flossing until the science finally backs up what Dr. Basjucak has been telling you all these years.
So Why is Finding Evidence So Hard?
Getting hard evidence of flossing’s effectiveness would be incredibly difficult, maybe impossible.
Imagine trying to randomize a group of adults to floss daily for the next three to five years and expect that every study participant would rigorously meet their need to floss. Most Americans don’t floss now, and have a tendency to over exaggerate the number of times they actually do floss. Could you then guarantee that the study participants who have agreed never to floss for during the same time period hold up their end of the study, even when they get a piece of corn stuck between their teeth? It would be nearly impossible.
A lot of additional variables would also come into play and impact the outcome of the study, starting with the bacterial composition of your dental plaque.
Plaque – the sticky biofilm that primarily contributes to the development of tooth decay – is comprised of a highly complex matrix of multiple types of bacteria. D
While some types of oral bacteria pose a serious threat to your long-term oral health, other types of bacteria are actually beneficial. The body’s response to harmful bacteria also varies by person, as does the alignment and spacing between an individual’s teeth, which impacts how well they can floss.
Add to all of these varying factors the varying levels of commitment and skill the average person has when it comes to flossing, and it’s difficult to imagine any group of researchers having the ability to properly gauge flossing’s true impact on an individual’s long-term oral health.
So Why Should You Floss?
Despite all of the known unknowns surrounding the need to floss, what’s clearly established is the dynamic between gum disease and plaque, which researchers have been building evidence for since the early 1960s.
While there’s no 100 percent guarantee that flossing, or even brushing, will successfully eliminate plaque from your mouth completely, it’s still worth your time to take every precaution possible when it comes to protecting your oral health.
Now, before we start hearing you sigh in disbelief from our downtown Portland dental office, keep in mind that while flossing has its limits, it remains the method of choice in preventing periodontal diseases over the long-term.
Remember, when it comes to your oral health, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.