Should You Stop Flossing?

Dental Floss

U.S. Government Drops Recommendation

Does This Mean Flossing is Worthless?

The dentists and hygienists at the Sacramento Dentistry Group tell our patients to floss every single day that we practice dentistry. We don’t do this based on a hunch, or an educated guess. Practical experience with our patients shows us that people who floss regularly come to our downtown office with fewer dental problems — especially from gum disease. So why did the federal government recently drop daily flossing from its list of health recommendations for Americans?

Would You Study Flossing?

The argument for removing the daily flossing recommendation is basically that there are insufficient scientific studies to support it. The American Academy of Periodontology (or AAP, the dentists who study gum disease) has been widely quoted as supporting this argument. Nevertheless, if you visit their website, you will see that they still recommend daily flossing to prevent gingivitis, periodontitis and tooth loss. (For example, a recent headline from the AAP reads: “Floss or Risk Losing Your Teeth”.)

The simple fact is, the people who study dentistry just aren’t that interested in “proving” something they already know from experience works very well to prevent tooth loss. To quote one of the dentists at Sacramento Dentistry Group:

“To make national health statements nowadays requires stringent proof supported by years of research that have been verified through double blind clinical trials. To go from a theory to a law in medicine requires a plethora of evidence, proof, and years of acceptance. Science is a slow and methodical practice that errs on the side of caution to avoid being wrong. Even then, sometimes it embarrasses itself. To date, while we have much research on other subjects, we don’t on flossing as it was assumed a given. In order for research to get funded, the return on investment needs to be promising.”

As the last sentence in this statement suggests, dentists do not make any money by telling people to floss their teeth — quite the opposite! Dentists encourage flossing because they don’t want to see gum disease, cavities and tooth loss. And the majority of dental studies focus on finding continually more effective treatments for dental diseases and methods of replacing the teeth that clients do lose — often because they fail to floss. And it is the search for those treatments that corporations and individuals are willing to bankroll — with the expectation of a future payback. Despite this capitalistic aspect of research science, medicine overall continues to be the one field that tries to chase its patients away — by telling them how to avoid costly diseases in the first place. In this effort, dentistry is likely foremost, reminding people time and again of the simple oral health habits that we witness working wonders every single day that we clean teeth.

So yes, there may be very few well-composed studies on dental floss, but imagine yourself as a young research scientist. Can you see yourself waking up one day and deciding that you just can’t wait to do an experiment on flossing? It’s like a doctor deciding to study whether bandages help to stop bleeding! The commotion created by the U.S. government through dropping the recommendation to floss may just fire up indignant dental researchers around the world, but others will likely continue studying better forms of orthodontics, dental implants and treatments for gum disease. These are very interesting, modern and lucrative forms of dentistry. Dental floss is admittedly somewhat boring, ancient history and inexpensive — but it works!

What Our Dentists and Hygienists Will Tell You

When done consistently and properly in conjunction with brushing the teeth, flossing prevents bleeding gums, it stops the progression of gingivitis, it reduces the chance of cavities between the teeth and it nearly eliminates tooth loss. We would not recommend it if we did not see it work effectively. So any and all of our patients can feel free to consider a “lack of proof” to be reason to quit flossing, but in our “expert opinion,” you will only face a future of costly dental procedures in the end!

Sacramento Dentistry
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