A recent article by the Associated Press was met with jubilation by many people who are under the impression that they can now throw that awkward box of string known as dental floss into the garbage. The article pointed out, quite correctly, that the scientific evidence that flossing prevents oral disease is pretty sparse. But wait…Not so fast. Before you have to go dumpster diving to recover that floss, let’s look at the bigger picture.
Poorly designed research and limited short terms studies may not prove that flossing works, but it doesn’t prove that it is useless either. It just leaves the question unanswered. If you wanted to design a flossing study correctly, you would need a ton of people willing to be randomly assigned to two groups: one that flosses perfectly and consistently and one that doesn’t at all. And, you would have to run the study for a number of years. So, what if it turns out that flossing is critical to maintaining oral health? Too bad for the poor suckers that were assigned to the no-flossing group. That’s an ethical dilemma. Plus, research money is tight these days. A proper study of this sort would cost a bundle and the funding just isn’t out there.
What we do know is that bacterial plaque buildup on your teeth causes tooth decay and gum disease. If you get rid of the plaque, these diseases are prevented or stay under control. The key is to use a daily oral hygiene technique along with regular professional visits that will remove the plaque. Floss works great for this purpose if used correctly and consistently, especially in between the teeth. But there are other options too for you anti-flossers out there. Interproximal brushes, powered toothbrushes with specially shaped brush heads, tooth picks and Waterpik devices all help to remove bacteria from between your teeth.
The bottom line is that if you want to keep your smile healthy and looking great, there is no substitute for dental cleaning, good oral hygiene, a low-sugar diet and regular professional visits with your dentist in Daytona Beach to help tailor a treatment and prevention program that works best for you.
David R. Lloyd, D.D.S.