Is It Really Okay to Stop Flossing?
Dentists weigh in on a new report about the dubious benefits of flossing.
By now, you’ve probably seen, shared, and celebrated that story—the one telling you that it’s finally okay to burn your floss in a fiery blaze (if you even own floss at all), that years of defying dentists’ orders isn’t a big deal, after all.
The story resulted from an AP investigation, which found that evidence of flossing’s efficacy is dubious at best. Most flossing studies, it found, were based on flawed methodology, and failed to concretely establish any real benefit associated with the habit. The federal government even admitted, AP notes, that “the effectiveness of flossing had never been researched, as required.”
It’s welcome news for those of us who take a, shall we say, low-key approach to oral hygiene—but what do dentists think of the damning report?
Rosie Wagner, founding dentist at Somerville’s Smiles by Rosie, says it’s high time dentists stop “shaming” patients for their flossing habits.
“Factors like saliva flow, oral pH, fluoride during tooth development, sugars in food and drink, and smoking affect the bacterial condition of the mouth more than oral hygiene,” Wagner says, though she concedes that, for some patients, flossing may help remove gum disease- or tooth decay-causing bacteria, as well as food remnants that may cause cavities.
Edita Outericka, dental director at Mansfield’s Dynamic Dental, takes a similar position. She says flossing may help remove gunk collecting between the teeth and reduce gum inflammation, but it’s far from the most important part of a dental routine.
“Flossing, in my opinion, takes its place well behind maintaining proper oral health through diet, proper brushing, semi-annual check-ups with your dentist, and professional cleanings from a dental hygienist,” Outericka says.
If you’re one of the chosen few who love to floss—you know who you are—there’s likely no need to stop. On the other hand, if you, like the majority of humans, dread opening up that little white box, you probably don’t have to feel guilty.
And for what it’s worth, Outericka says it’s difficult for your dentist to tell if you floss, anyway. Sigh of relief, breathed.