Forget the Floss?

The use of dental floss has been under media spotlight these last few weeks.

An investigation by Associated Press (AP) questioned the benefits of flossing, claiming there was insufficient proof to back up claims that it has a direct impact on oral hygiene.

Since then, there has been an abundance of articles and further commentary weighing up the pros and cons of flossing, with many attempting to shed further light on AP’s claims.

The American Dental Association (ADA) came out in strong support for flossing claiming it was an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums. However, a dentist from The University of Birmingham suggested that evidence was weak around the benefits of flossing.

So, should you floss?

Ultimately, cleaning between your teeth is good for you, your teeth and your gums. Even sceptics of flossing tend to agree with that point.

The fact is, that using a toothbrush alone will only reach three of the five surfaces – the front, back and top of a tooth. It will not reach the sides that abut other teeth.

I have always been an advocate of interdental brushes, which act like mini pipe cleaners and can reach areas that dental floss is unable to. Unlike dental floss, the bristles on the brush can be more effective at targeting uneven surfaces and removing food and debris from in between teeth.

It’s easy to do and takes minutes – not hours – so in my opinion, is it worth it? Absolutely.

I think it would be unwise to deduce that flossing is totally ineffective. Just because a lack of scientific evidence is said to exist, doesn’t directly mean that the claimed benefits are totally disproven. In my opinion, it simply implies that more sophisticated trials are needed.

That’s why I’ll be continuing to encourage my patients to use interdental brushes, ensuring they cover all bases when it comes to keeping teeth and gums clean.