October is National Dental Hygiene Month, and we believe this observation is particularly important this year, in light of recent news about the efficacy of flossing.
For years, your dentist and dental hygienist likely have told you to brush and floss daily to help prevent gum disease and cavities.
Media reports in early August called that advice into question. The latest dietary guidelines issued by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services no longer include flossing recommendations, according to The New York Times.
The change is the apparent result of an Associated Press investigation that began in 2015. The AP reviewed research conducted within the last 10 years and focused on more than two dozen studies that “generally compared the use of a toothbrush with the combination of toothbrushes and floss,” according to the AP. Their review found evidence that proves the benefits of flossing is “weak, very unreliable,” of “very low” quality, and carries “a moderate to large potential for bias.”
Does that mean you should stop flossing?
“Not by a long shot,” says Milford dentist Dr. Joseph Tartagni. “Some news outlets have implied that because flossing has been removed from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, the implication is that it no longer is recommended. That isn’t the case.”
Here is what the American Dental Association has to say on the topic: “… a lack of strong evidence doesn’t equate to a lack of effectiveness. As doctors of oral health, dentists are in the best position to advise their patients on oral hygiene practices because they know their patient’s oral health status and health history.”
The American Dental Hygienists’ Association also continues to support flossing “with proper technique as instructed by your dental hygienist among other interdental implements being beneficial to removing bacteria, biofilm, and food debris from interproximal areas that tooth brushing cannot access,” according to an ADHA press release.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reaffirmed in a statement to the ADA on Aug. 4 that flossing is an integral part of oral hygiene:
“Tooth decay and gum disease can develop when plaque is allowed to build up on teeth and along the gum line. Professional cleaning, tooth brushing, and cleaning between teeth (flossing and the use of other tools such as interdental brushes) have been shown to disrupt and remove plaque.”
If you interpreted all the news reports in August to mean that you could toss out your floss, let National Dental Hygiene Month be your reason to recommit to a daily flossing regime.
“Think about all the times you’ve had food stuck between your teeth,” Dr. Tartagni says. “Dental floss is a lifesaver after eating corn on the cob.”
There’s also a study that suggests flossing is a key component to longevity. The Leisure World Cohort Study found that older adults who didn’t floss were up to 29 percent more likely to die during the study period, according to Forbes.
Has it been a while since you last visited the dentist? Do you need to establish a dental home? National Dental Hygiene Month is the perfect time to get your oral health back on track, and the team at Shoreline Dental Care are here to help make it easy for you. Call today to schedule an appointment for a free new patient consultation, dental exam and X-rays. While you’re here, one of our dentists or hygienists will be happy to give you a refresher on proper flossing techniques to ensure you get the maximum benefit.