Social Media was taken by storm recently when one journalist shed light on a long forgotten but unguarded secret: There is no scientific proof by which the Food and Drug Agency (FDA) or other government health agencies can support the American Dental Association’s (ADA) claim that flossing ones teeth improves gum health or overall health. Drs. Ken and Marnie Collins of Collins Dental & Aesthetic urge patients to bear in mind that just because there hasn’t been any scientific research conducted on the subject, does not necessarily refute the benefit that dentists have observed anecdotally for the last 3½ decades.
Government organizations like the FDA are bound by strict policies pertaining to the burden of scientific proof they must obtain before publicly endorsing recommendations for food, drugs, medical supplies, and procedures. What the FDA can tell you publicly is that while there is no proof flossing is beneficial, there is also no proof that it is in any way harmful or should be discontinued.
Since 1979 the ADA, and most dentists, have recommended that patients brush and floss their teeth twice a day. Dentists have observed that the combined practices help prevent and/or reduce inflammation of the gums and promote overall oral health by dislodging particles of food that can get lodged between teeth creating a lightning rod for bacteria growth and disruption of the mouth’s proper pH balance. The harmful kind of bacteria that can grow when debris is not regularly brushed and flossed away can enter the bloodstream and there is scientific research that supports a positive relationship between the presence of certain oral bacteria and the activity of a growing number of chronic diseases.
Conducting scientific research to prove the benefits of flossing is next to impossible given that it has been a standard practice for more than 35 years. The kind of research required to garner a government endorsement would require having a control group over a number of years that has not and does not floss in order to compare against those who do. Many people are loath to floss regularly, and certainly many people lie about the frequency of their flossing habits. Any such research would rely upon either the honesty of participants in a survey or the monitoring of the participants 24/7 to ensure that they are not lying about their brushing and flossing or engaging in other activities, such as brushing longer or more vigorously, that might otherwise compromise the validity of the data.
At the end of the day, it is every individual’s right and responsibility to decide whether to continue to floss, and how often. To us, it simply seems logical that flossing helps expel debris that enables the growth of bacteria, and that is something our patients would want to continue. To learn more, or schedule a cleaning, call our office at 509-532-1111.
Or office in Spokane is located at:
3151 E. 28th Ave.
Spokane, WA 99223
Office phone # 509-532-1111