To floss or not to floss?

To floss or not to floss?

Following news that there is a lack of evidence that using dental floss is beneficial to oral health, leading health organisation, the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy(BSDHT), are highlighting the continued importance of regular interdental cleaning.

An investigation by the Associated Press, published this week, has suggested that there is no definitive evidence that using dental floss prevents dental caries or gum disease.

The AP state that ‘evidence for flossing is “weak, very unreliable,” of “very low” quality, and carries “a moderate to large potential for bias’.

The BSDHT are advising their members and patients that regular interdental cleaning remains a valuable part of their oral health routine.

Michaela ONeill, President of the BSDHT, said: “Although there has been no conclusive proof to show that flossing is beneficial to oral health, there is evidence which shows that regular interdental cleaning, with interdental brushes plays an important role in our oral health routine.

“Tooth brushing alone only cleans three of the five surfaces of our teeth, so cleaning between our teeth is a critical part of good oral hygiene as it helps to prevent gum disease by removing plaque from any areas missed by brushing alone.

“In recent years’ gum disease has been linked with serious health conditions such as diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, poor pregnancy outcomes and even dementia.

“Regular interdental cleaning removes the biofilms that develop in-between teeth. This is commonly called plaque and hosts various microorganisms which, if left in situ, can lead to dental decay. It is this plaque that we aim to remove daily.”

Dental decay happens when the enamel and dentine of a tooth become softened by acid attack after you have eaten or drunk anything containing sugars. Over time, the acid makes a cavity (hole) in the tooth and can lead to the tooth having to be filled or even removed. Gum disease can be induced by a person’s reaction to plaque. The disease process begins when plaque is not removed effectively. The removal of plaque is key to maintaining dental health.

The BSDHT are encouraging everyone to continue cleaning in-between their teeth regularly as well as maintaining a basic oral health routine which includes; brushing for two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, cutting down on sugary foods and drinks and visiting the dentist often.

Michaela continued: “Although flossing has not been proven to be effective, one of the major problems of the research so far is that it makes some conclusions which cannot be applied to all patients. Patients are individuals and consequently have different needs.

“For example, if we consider a patient who suffers from an autoimmune disease, or an elderly patient, or perhaps a very young patient, we understand that they are all at a greater risk from opportunistic bacteria in their mouths, which can lead to an increased risk of infection. For these groups, who are not widely sampled within the existing research, regular interdental cleaning can be even more effective.

“Reports that flossing can actually be damaging to oral health are also incredibly misleading. If you have any concerns or questions you should raise these with a member of your dental team.”