Flossing your teeth does not work and could be a waste of time, new research suggests

It can be ‘of little value’, say the British Dental Association

Kate Nelson
Tuesday 02 August 2016 17:00 BST
Flossing doesn't work

If you have been diligently setting aside five minutes every day to floss your teeth, you may have been wasting your time.

There is little reliable evidence it actually works and recommendations to do so have been removed from official health guidelines in America, according to new research.

Studies investigating benefits of flossing are weak, according to the Associated Press (AP) which ‘looked at the most rigorous research conducted over the past decade’.

Investigative journalist Jeff Donn wrote: “Most of these studies used outdated methods or tested few people.

“Some lasted only two weeks, far too brief for a cavity or dental disease to develop. One tested 25 people after only a single use of floss."

Professor Damien Walmsley, the British Dental Association’s scientific adviser confirmed floss can be ‘of little value’.

He said: “Small inter-dental brushes are preferable for cleaning the area in between the teeth, where there is space to do so.

"Floss is of little value unless the spaces between your teeth are too tight for the inter-dental brushes to fit without hurting or causing harm."

The best way to reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease is to brush teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, see the dentist regularly, cut back on sugar and consume the ‘occasional sweet treat at meal times only’, professor Walmsley said.

The AP scrutinised 25 studies which compared using a just toothbrush versus toothbrush combined with floss.

It found evidence for flossing is "weak, very unreliable," and "very low" quality.

The NHS says on its website: "Dental floss helps to prevent gum disease by getting rid of pieces of food and plaque from between your teeth."

But when the AP spoke to Johnson & Johnson spokesman Marc Boston, who at first insisted that floss helps remove plaque, he later declined comment when he was sent a list of contradicting studies,.

The AP also found advice to floss was removed without notice from the federal government's latest health guidelines. It later confirmed in a letter that the effectiveness of flossing had never been researched, as is required.

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