We have noticed an alarming trend on Facebook recently. A post kept popping up, gaining a lot of traction regarding an old report that claimed that there was no real proof that flossing teeth was of any real benefit. We posted about it on Facebook but now we feel the need to go into a little more detail to help keep things in focus for anyone out there who may be reading these articles and finding it all too confusing.

The article was, it turns out, based in some fact, and referring to a study that was commissioned by the Associated Press.
The article (see the original here) investigated two previous reviews on the topic which essentially compared using a toothbrush alone versus using a toothbrush with dental flossing. It went on to claim that evidence for the value of flossing was “weak” and “unreliable” and essentially claimed that the argument FOR flossing was a biased one.

And then Facebook exploded…

Regrettably as memes like to take hold, this got shared a lot. People went so far as to claim that the ADA (American Dental Association) was backing the study and recommending that flossing was in fact for the birds.  Fortunately in Canada, organizations like the CDA (The Canadian Dental Association) got on the airwaves fast and started putting out the message that this was not the position of Dentists in Canada.

The CDA went on record and essentially countered the claim of these articles and, through public service announcements, stated that in our collective professional opinion, we as dental professionals still very much advocate and believe in the use of flossing. Unfortunately, the damage had somewhat already been done, and many people were still sharing this viral news and basically celebrating it as “permission to not have to floss”.

See The Video Here

So what’s the verdict? Flossing: Yes or No? Here’s what we think (and we do this for a living!)

When a patient comes into our office and cites these recent news articles from Facebook or other various online sources, here’s what we say:

The Associated Press article that was the source of this buzz wrote a very dramatic account, but when you actually read it, no new clinical findings were cited since The Cochrane review of 2011 which was the last sourced article on the subject… that’s a BIG gap folks.
What followed in the news didn’t even touch on the multitude of risks for developing tooth decay or gum disease. Moreover, it didn’t mention that these diseases typically are slow to manifest, are silent and hard to detect, especially in the case of periodontitis (gum disease).
This created a kind of perfect storm, leaving out important bits of information, and omitting the correct context which essentially mislead the public and gave people who were already looking for an excuse NOT to floss a justifiable position. Or so they thought. In other words, if you fall in the camp of those who hate to floss, you’ve been Had Folks!
What we do know is that flossing is important! It directly addresses one of the leading causes of cavities and gum disease by removing plaque, which is that filmy material you see being scraped off your teeth when you do in fact floss.

Here are some facts:

  • Plaque leads to tooth decay
  • Plaque can only be removed with physical intervention, e.g. dental hygiene appointments where your teeth are professionally cleaned and with regular brushing and flossing! Especially with braces, we can’t stress this point enough, you should remember that flossing is critical to help reduce the risk of food deposits becoming calcified and creating big problems down the road. Also of note when you have braces, accumulated plaque can become calcified (hardened) and lead to poor tooth movement and therefore prolong your treatment time.
  • While there is no proof yet that flossing alone prohibits tooth decay there is PLENTY OF PROOF that plaque leads to tooth decay. Last we checked, 2 + 2 still equals 4 so sticking to the same logic, it’s reasonable to assume that cavity prevention is maximized by the removal of plaque… Yes folks, that means flossing.

Flossing reaches those hard-to-get places and helps address one major contributing factor that affects oral health. If you aren’t already doing so, please floss daily. If you aren’t sure how to effectively floss with your new braces, make sure you watch the useful video above published by the AAO (American Association of Orthodontists) to help you get a handle on the best techniques. Remember, even though you are seeing an orthodontist, you still need to keep up with regular dental visits too. We work closely with your dentist and work together as a team to ensure that you achieve the very best oral care possible.