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Everyone recommends flossing – but there’s hardly any proof it works


Dental organizations and the federal government have long urged people to use dental floss, but the latest US guidelines have dropped the recommendation

It’s one of the most universal recommendations in all of public health: floss daily to prevent gum disease and cavities.

Except there’s little proof that flossing works.

Still, the US federal government, dental organizations and manufacturers of floss have pushed the practice for decades. Dentists provide samples to their patients; the American Dental Association insists on its website: “Flossing is an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums.”

Everything you ever wanted to know about teeth (but were afraid to ask the dentist)

The federal government has recommended flossing since 1979, first in a surgeon general’s report and later in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, issued every five years. The guidelines must be based on scientific evidence, under the law.

Last year, the Associated Press asked the health and agriculture departments for their evidence, and followed up with written requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

When the federal government issued its latest dietary guidelines this year, the flossing recommendation had been removed, without notice. In a letter to the AP, the government acknowledged the effectiveness of flossing had never been researched, as required.

The AP looked at the most rigorous research conducted over the past decade, focusing on 25 studies that generally compared the use of a toothbrush with the combination of toothbrushes and floss. The findings? The evidence for flossing is “weak, very unreliable”, of “very low” quality, and carries “a moderate to large potential for bias”.

9 thoughts on “Everyone recommends flossing – but there’s hardly any proof it works

  1. B.S. Flossing is great for your gums and is great at getting where your toothbrush and mouthwash can’t in terms of getting rid of trapped food particles. The new flossers, usually 90 to a pack, are cheap and easy for people with tighly packed teeth to use compared to the old rolls of floss where you had to wrap around your fingers and it still always broke–big pain in the a$$. So what is this, a targeted poke at Big Hygiene?

  2. 2:44 – There have been over 30 studies negating everything you said. The government is unable to come up with any rationale for why it should be done. The floss manufacturers were asked and they cannot come up with anything either.
    You have been just a victim of very long term government propaganda for the benefit of oral hygiene product manufacturers.

  3. I don’t care what the studies say. I love flossing and I’m stickin’ with it!

  4. Nope, not a victim. A beneficiary of good product development. Tight teeth shred thin flossing material. Thicker floss doesn’t get shredded, but unfortunately doesn’t fit between the teeth without a lot of force. Getting a grip on a length of floss tight enough to jam it between tight teeth is painful because the floss string tightly wrapped around fingers ends up cutting off the flow of blood. Food particles trapped along the gumline between tightly-fitting teeth for more than a day cause the gum tissue to get infected, even with strong mouthwash, producing bleeding and bad breath. But…the new flossers get right in between teeth jammed against each other, no sweat. Regular use of the new flossers together with good brushing and strong mouthwash prevents bleeding gums and bad breath and leaves behind healthy pink gums. No medical study needed.

  5. Johnson & Johnson must have stopped paying protection $.

  6. The article is quoted incorrectly. The Record has the correct entire article. Teeth MUST be cleaned in between teeth to avoid infection and gum disease. There are several devices that do this ….water, electrical etc. Flossing can easily be done incorrectly and won’t be effective, but if done correctly and the user has enough dexterity, not arthritic etc, flossing can clean in between teeth. I have been using floss correctly for over 70 years. If I brush and then use floss , food particles come out. Tiny bits. So I brush well, floss and then brush again without toothpaste, Hey, there are worse and more wasteful ways to use your time. By the way, I ain’t got no fillins.

  7. I wish people would floss and use a water pick.
    Rotting food between your teeth gives you bad breath which is gross.

  8. Come on man ! I just bought like, 8000 feet at Costco! Come on man!

  9. LOL 10:07am…sounds like a line out of an Alanis Morissette song…

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