- Publish Date
- Monday, 8 August 2016, 1:03PM
It's one of the most universal recommendations in all of public health: Floss daily to prevent gum disease and cavities. Except there's little proof that flossing works.
An Associated Press US-focused investigation reveals the evidence for flossing is "weak" and "inconclusive", and if done incorrectly, could do more harm than good.
However, flossing is still a practice pushed by governments, dental organisations and manufacturers of floss around the world.
The US government has recommended flossing since 1979, however when the US Government issued its latest dietary guidelines this year, the flossing recommendation had been removed, without notice. In a letter to the AP, the government acknowledged the effectiveness of flossing had never been researched, as required.
Most flossing studies have used outdated methods or tested few people. Some lasted only two weeks, far too brief for a cavity or dental disease to develop.
Wayne Aldredge, president of the periodontists' group, acknowledged the weak scientific evidence and the brief duration of many studies. In an interview at his private practice in
New Jersey, he said the impact of floss might be clearer if researchers focused on patients at the highest risk of gum disease, such as diabetics and smokers.
Still, he urges his patients to floss to help avoid gum disease.
"It's like building a house and not painting two sides of it," he said. "Ultimately those two sides are going to rot away quicker."
Basically, very little conclusive research has been done on the actual benefits of flossing, but most dentists recommend we still do it.