The press has been abuzz lately with headlines proclaiming that there does not appear to be any strong evidence that flossing helps prevent tooth decay or gum disease. This assertion has been disturbing to dental professionals who have spent years educating the public in the benefits of daily flossing, as well to as their patients who have taken up the habit, and have seen clear benefits. Here’s a sneak preview of our opinion: daily flossing is still really important!
• The research conducted on daily flossing with toothpastes has been short-term, and lacks the quality necessary to prove or disprove a short or long-term benefit. Dental decay and in particular gum diseases are complex and multifaceted conditions that can take years to develop.
• The data collected in the studies is likely flawed: many patients are not completely honest with their dentist about their flossing habits, and those that floss often use poor technique, which further complicates the research.
• Science has shown that the problematic bacteria, which contribute to dental decay and gum disease, require easily fermented carbohydrates (like table sugars and natural sweeteners) to grow and multiply. Even starchier carbohydrates can be problematic if they are left on your teeth for too long, and broken down into simple sugars (which can easily occur in the narrow spaces in between the teeth).
• Common sense and the first-hand observations of countless dental professionals should provide ample evidence support this habit, without or without long-term research that can be difficult to conduct and fund. Especially if teeth are very close together and more prone to cavities in between the teeth.
I personally recommend flossing with brands such as “Oral-B Glide” which are formulated to slide more easily into the tight spaces between the teeth. Some people might prefer brands such as “Desert Essence” which use only natural ingredients, and with the inclusion of the naturally anti-septic tea tree oil.
For more on oral health, have a look at our article series on choosing or making toothpastes and other oral hygiene products.
This article was contributed by Jay Wolkoff, MS, a clinical nutritionist specializing in integrative and functional medicine. He currently practices at the office of Dr. Alan Wolkoff, DMD, where he offers nutrition and lifestyle counseling to support individuals experiencing dental concerns including extensive dental decay. Jay has a special interest in herbal medicine, and is a keen organic gardener, meditator and yoga practitioner.