Is Flossing Necessary?

Since the early 1900s dentists have routinely urged patients to floss their teeth daily. Starting in 1979, federal health authorities joined in recommending daily flossing. Since then, however, some researchers have published journal articles saying dental flossing is actually not very helpful in reducing plaque or preventing gingivitis. An Associated Press (AP) report in August 2016 declared in its headline: “Medical benefits of dental floss unproven.” The federal government flossing advice has since been discontinued.


Is Flossing Good to Do, Or Is It a Waste of Time?

Dental flossing began in the early 1800s and became common in the mid-20th century. Flossing works by clearing out debris between the teeth that brushing alone cannot reach. Flossing also disrupts the formation of plaque between the teeth, especially where the teeth and gums meet.

The most recent journal articles have summarized the studies of whether dental flossing removes plaque, reduces gingivitis and overall prevents some gum disease. Regardless of what the AP or other headlines suggest, the summary reports draw simple and limited conclusions:

  1. There is some evidence showing that flossing plus tooth brushing gives noticeable benefits at reducing gingivitis, compared to tooth brushing alone.
  2. There are substantial benefits from professionally-applied tooth flossing (such as your hygienist provides at dental cleanings)
  3. Patients need to floss properly to gain the potential benefits. Dentists and hygienists need to give detailed instruction, motivate the patients and help patients gain the physical skills to floss effectively.
  4. Inter-dental brushes, a product of much newer technology, give more benefits than flossing and are reportedly easier to use than dental floss.
  5. Anti-plaque rinses can yield tooth and gum health benefits when used alone or with flossing.

Dr. Rick Dentistry in Scottsdale Recommends Daily Flossing

The results of flossing for our patients cannot be ignored. We have seen positive results in Scottsdale patients when they brush twice a day and floss daily. Many patients report that:

  • flossing immediately helps when they apply it gently and consistently when gum bleeding starts
  • they notice a much cleaner mouth when they both brush and floss

Regardless of the various studies, everyone can observe how flossing does dislodge bits of food debris and clears away decaying matter in the mouth. There is no reason to stop flossing, unless you adopt an inter-dental brush method. Ask Dr. Rick or the hygienists in our Scottsdale dentist's office about alternatives to floss if you have difficulties using floss or want to try the newer techniques.