Flossing Teeth: 'Weak Evidence' To Suggest It Prevents Gum Disease And Cavities, Says Dentist

To floss or not to floss? That is the question.

03/08/2016 09:27

If you thought flossing was great news for your health, think again.

That’s according to British dentist Professor Damien Walmsley who said there is only “weak evidence” that flossing prevents gum disease and cavities. 

Flossing is currently recommended by most dental experts, however there is hardly any scientific evidence to back up the health claims surrounding it.

In response to Professor Walmsley’s claims, a spokesperson for Public Health England said they will keep “abreast of the evidence base and will consider these findings”.

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Professor Walmsley, 58, of Birmingham University, said the time and expense required for reliable studies meant the health claims often attributed to using dental floss were unproven, PA reported. 

“The difficulty is trying to get good evidence,” said Professor Walmsley, who is also a scientific adviser to the British Dental Association. “People are different and large studies are costly to do ... until then you can’t really say yes or no.”

He added that “more sophisticated trials” were needed.

In response to his claims, Public Health England (PHE) said it would “consider these findings”.

A spokesperson said: “Some people may not have large enough spaces in between their teeth to use an inter-dental brush, so flossing can be a useful alternative.

“Patients should speak to their dentist if they have any concerns.”


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Earlier this year, the US government dropped the flossing recommendation from its guidelines because they must be legally based on scientific evidence.

An investigation by Associated Press looked at research surrounding flossing which had been conducted over the past decade.

Twenty-five studies in leading journals discovered that evidence for flossing is “weak, very unreliable”, of “very low” quality, and carries “a moderate to large potential for bias”.

One review conducted in 2015 said: “The majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal.”

Another 2015 review cites “inconsistent/weak evidence” for flossing and a “lack of efficacy”.

One study did credit floss with a slight reduction in gum inflammation. However, the reviewers ranked the evidence as “very unreliable”.

Floss can occasionally cause harm, with poor technique leading to damaged gums and teeth and also dislodging bad bacteria, which can lead to infections.

The British Dental Association said: “Small inter-dental brushes are best for cleaning the area in between the teeth, where there is space to do so.

“Floss is of little value unless the spaces between your teeth are too tight for the interdental brushes to fit without hurting or causing harm.”

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