In August, the Associated Press published an article stating that flossing is no longer recommended by the Federal Government for Americans. If you missed the original article, read it here.
While we were all grateful for the brief reprieve from political reporting, many of us in the dental industry wondered how and why our government would turn its back on such a universally accepted health guideline? In an effort to keep our patients fully up-to-date on the best practices for dental health, we decided to take a closer look at how this story developed.
How did this story get started?
A national journalist for the AP, Jeff Dunn, got a tip from an orthodontist. The orthodontist claimed that there was little research to back up the efficacy of daily flossing. Noticing that flossing has been recommended to Americans for decades, Mr. Dunn decided to request documentation supporting the flossing recommendations in the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” which is published by the Federal Government. The law says that all guidelines must be backed up by solid scientific evidence. When the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Department of Agriculture, failed to produce any documentation, the AP reporter filed an official request under the Freedom of Information Act. Six months later, in January 2016, the flossing guideline was gone from the newest version of the Dietary Guidelines.
There’s no documentation supporting flossing?
There have been studies to examine the efficacy of flossing. Most dentists believe that the cited flossing studies are flawed. The problem is that many of them were very short, only 3-6 months in duration. Also cited is the lack of studies done in patients vulnerable to gum disease, such as diabetics. “Gum disease is a slow disease,” says dentist and periodontist Wayne Aldredge. The ADA estimates that about 50% of adult Americans currently have some level of gum disease.
Dr. Colson and the staff at Colson Dental Group definitely recommend daily flossing be included in every patient’s oral care routine.
Most dentists and the ADA still advise patients to floss daily. Dentists point out that flossing definitely reduces plaque between teeth and removes food debris. It is a relatively inexpensive thing to do and risks are extremely low.
Ultimately, the only thing the AP article did was to uncover the lack of well-documented research into flossing.
We care for our patients’ complete oral health at Colson Dental Group. If you have questions about flossing or any other dental health issue, please call our office today at919-231-6053 for an appointment.