One of the most common recommendations out there is that we should floss daily to help reduce cavities and improve dental health.
There is only one problem. There is actually very weak evidence that flossing actually helps reduce cavities.
According to the Associated Press:
"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 departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture 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."
"The majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal," said one review conducted last year. Another 2015 review cites "inconsistent/weak evidence" for flossing and a "lack of efficacy."
I have never been a big fan of flossing but I am a big fan of looking at the data. While it will probably not do damage for most people to floss and there may be some benefit I think there is a lot of undo fear out there that if you don't floss it will definitely lead to cavities. The current level evidence seems to say that this is not the case. More rigorous studies are definitely needed to test the efficacy of flossing.
Ultimately, whether you decide to floss or not is up to you. Of course, I would recommend consulting with your dentist before making any changes to your dental hygiene regimen.
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