You know the standard advice that you should floss every day as well as brush twice a day as part of a good oral hygiene routine. But you’ve probably also heard that there is little evidence to support the benefits of flossing your teeth.
Now a new study is trying to clear up the confusion by evaluating nearly 2000 studies to figure out what the evidence tells us about cleaning between your teeth. Because of the number of disparate results, they couldn’t recommend a single method for cleaning between teeth as being better than the others. Instead, they recommend that dentists take a personalized approach to the question and recommend the type of cleaner that would work best for each patient.
Compiling Diverse Results
This review looked at a total of 1860 studies published from January 2008 to April 2019. This included six systematic reviews.
One of their main conclusions from looking at the data was that the studies were very diverse and couldn’t be easily synthesized. Plus, the evidence tended to be of low quality, from weak to moderate with generally low certainty of benefits.
However, in all the studies they saw some evidence of benefits, which made researchers believe that all of them could be effective under the right circumstances, and therefore dentists should work individually with patients to match them with their best tooth cleaning option.
Insights on Different Strategies
Among the 1860 studies that researchers looked at were six systematic reviews. Systematic reviews are basically attempts to consolidate similar studies to create a single, larger study with greater statistical power so that it can make better conclusions.
These systematic reviews came up with different conclusions. For example, the review focused on flossing used 11 studies to conclude that there was no evidence that flossing plus toothbrushing was better than brushing alone. However, another review, which looked at 22 studies, concluded that “unsupervised flossing” offered no benefits, which gets to the heart of the issue with flossing: it’s hard to do right. Many people might not know how to floss properly and therefore get no benefit from it.
On the other hand, three reviews (with 9, 22, and 35 studies, respectively) highlighted the benefits of interdental brushes, saying that they could remove more plaque, reduce bleeding, or both. The largest review also concluded that interdental brushes might be better than flossing. Water jets also scored high in several of the reviews, but even toothpicks were able to show some benefit in one of the reviews.
Which Strategy Is Best for You?
Given the fact that no one strategy works significantly better than the others, how do you decide which strategy to use? We recommend a three-part test: what will you use, what can you do, and what is effective.
If You Don’t Use It, It Can’t Help
The biggest priority is choosing a cleaning strategy that you’ll actually use. If you find flossing a chore and won’t do it, then it won’t do any good. You’re better off switching to interdental brushes or a water jet.
If You Can’t Use It, Why Try?
Some interdental cleaning methods are challenging. Flossing, for example, requires a significant amount of manual dexterity. If you don’t have that dexterity, then perhaps flossing isn’t right for you.
If It’s Not Working, Try Something Else
Of course, you also want to make sure that your cleaning method is actually effective. There’s no point to doing nightly cleaning if it’s not making a difference. At your regular checkups, we will evaluate your oral health, including plaque, tartar, cavities, and gum disease, and recommend a change if we think you are at risk.
Let’s Work Together for Your Best Health
Ensuring oral health takes a team effort. Your daily hygiene routine is the most important part, and we want to make sure you are doing all you can to protect your oral and overall health.
Please call (509) 532-1111 today to schedule your next appointment with a dentist at Collins Family & Cosmetic Dentistry in Spokane.