In recent weeks, several news outlets have opined on the relevance of three different studies that seem to suggest flossing is useless. A closer look at these studies however raises some serious questions.
The first study, published in 2006, focused on children between the ages of four and thirteen and found that those trained to floss by themselves saw no reduction in cavities. It is worth noting that this particular study was conducted on children who already had poor brushing skills and lived in areas with low to no fluoride exposure. It is also worth noting that this study did not look at the impact flossing had on reducing gingivitis.
The second study, conducted by researchers at Inholland University for Applied Sciences in Amsterdam, reviewed the impact flossing, when combined with brushing, had on plaque and gingivitis. Published in 2008, researchers for this study found no additional benefit provided by flossing when proper brushing was practiced over a short period of time.
The third study, published in 2012, was actually a review of 12 other studies encompassing nearly 1,100 patients and comparing the difference between benefits offered by flossing and brushing when compared to brushing alone. According to the researchers’ analysis, flossing produced “statistically significant” reductions in plaque build-up and gingivitis. However, while statistically significant, the authors suggest evidence supporting the need to floss, at that time, was “weak.”
While interesting, none of these studies looked at the long-term impact flossing has on overall dental health, nor did any of them focus specifically on gum disease. The truth is, patients who floss enjoy a lower rate of gum inflammation and tend to have fewer cavities. Researchers for some of these studies have admitted that their scope was limited and questions regarding the tangible benefits of flossing, when combined with brushing, remain unanswered. This, of course, does not provide as snappy a headline and has been largely ignored by media outlets reporting on the findings.
Should you continue to floss? Absolutely. When combined with proper brushing and biannual visits to our New York City office for cleanings and examinations, flossing remains one of the most effective ways to prevent cavities and reduce risks for gum disease.
If you are overdue for a dental examination, please contact New York Smile Design online or by calling 212-452-3344 to schedule your next appointment. We serve patients living in Manhattan and all surrounding areas of New York.