The Flossing “Controversy”


ITC recently saw a newspaper article that claimed flossing is not necessary.  This was a relief as who does not feel guilty when your dentist asks you the dreaded flossing question.  We asked Apple Dental about the article and should we be throwing away the numerous and I mean numerous floss containers I have in my bathroom (I think I buy one each time I feel guilty that I am not flossing enough).

So are you a flosser? Apple Dental reckon’ you should be!

The Associated Press story regarding flossing, caused a lot of discussion. The conclusion was that there was no evidence that flossing between teeth has any impact at all on the incidence of tooth decay. A study published in the British Dental Journal in 2006 concluded that there was no difference in the number of cavities in people who flossed and those who didn’t.


Should I throw out my floss?

So, do we have cause to doubt the research? No, as surprising as that may sound. The real question that needs to be asked is how reliable the research can ever be, and what is the research actually saying? Read on before you decide to bin your floss.

The first thing the research is telling us that the evidence for flossing is very weak. The second thing it tells us is that the results of flossing are so inconclusive that flossing can neither be endorsed or disproven.

The problem with flossing experiments is it is very difficult, if not impossible when studying a population, to isolate the act of flossing from other tooth-damaging habits such as smoking, high sugar consumption and acid consumption. Also, this kind of study needs to run for a greater number of years before proper conclusions can be made.

Critically, the studies talk about the incidence of cavities in flossers and non-flossers, but they don’t appear to talk about the incidence of gum disease, which is really a much more serious condition and it has proven links to systemic health issues.

Does technique matter?

Yes! Tellingly, the one study that actually proved that flossing conferred a benefit, involved schoolchildren whose teeth were flossed five days a week by a professional hygienist. In other words, their teeth were flossed correctly. This study alone serves to virtually discredit all other studies, as it appears to be the only one that involved flossing being done properly. All others were observational studies which did little to sift out external factors that will potentially have a massive effect on the final observation, foremost being poor technique.

What’s the take home message?

If you want to keep your teeth by avoiding gum disease, keep flossing.

If you want to avoid cavities, brushing and flossing are of some value, but the majority of your protection will come from avoidance of dietary sugar. Everything else, including fluoride application, is there to help us negate the effects of the Western diet we choose to consume.

Visit the dentist or hygienist every 6 months. They will keep on top of your home care techniques and help to point out any technique issues, provide ongoing dietary advice to help you avoid cavities, remove plaque and tartar deposits that have escaped your otherwise through home care routine, and finally identify any issues such as gum disease and cavities before they have a chance to develop into significant problems.

apple dental

Apple Dental is proudly locally owned and operated with a high proportion of local residents within the team. With no corporate or health insurance ties there is no shareholder or contractual pressure to consider cutting on expenses or driving up profits. The focus is purely on patient care and quality clinical outcomes.


Apple Dental are one of ITC’s fabulous Foundation Sponsors. Without their support, our website would never have been possible. #itcfoundationsponsor


Do you have a local issue you would like help with? ITC is here to help just email us at [email protected]

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