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.
Still, governments, dental organisations and manufacturers of floss have pushed the practice for decades. Dentists provide samples to their patients; the British Dental Association insists on its patient website that flossing helps “in the battle against tooth decay and gum disease”.
But all this could change following an investigation by Associated Press (AP). Last year journalists from the agency asked the departments of health and human services and agriculture in the US for their evidence that flossing works.
Since then, the US government has quietly dropped the recommendation, admitting that there is no scientific evidence to prove the benefits. And now the NHS is set to review their own guidelines.
On its website, it currently states that dental floss “helps to prevent gum disease by getting rid of pieces of food and plaque from between your teeth” which can cause inflammation.
A leading British dentist, however, said there is only “weak evidence” that flossing helps in this way. Professor Damien Walmsley of Birmingham University, said the time and expense required for reliable studies meant the health claims often attributed to floss were unproven. Read more