I always thought flossing was good for my teeth

This SBM article leads me to question the idea that flossing my teeth helps to prevent dental cavities and gum disease.

It’s more complicated than that.

Done “by professionals” it can reduce dental caries (tooth decay) but if you’re not flossing at least five times a week there’s little benefit to it. Maybe the professionals had a technique the rest of us don’t know, or perhaps they were more diligent about flossing during those trials. Who knows?

To floss, or not to floss? That is the question. Now that you are armed with the evidence, you can make the choice which is best for you. If you want to prevent tooth decay, you should focus on reducing your sugar intake, use a fluoridated toothpaste, and perhaps a fluoride mouth rinse. Whether you decide to floss or not depends on your desired outcome. For a fresh, debris-free mouth, yes, go ahead and floss away. If your desire is to prevent cavities or periodontitis, other methods are more effective.

Many years ago before I started flossing regularly I rushed to the dentist while on holiday with a terrible pain in my mouth. Fearing that a tooth would have to be pulled or cavity filled I sat in the chair, leaned back and the dentist took one look. He grabbed some floss and removed the crumb that had lodged between my teeth. The pain was gone!

So, just like the author of that article, Grant Ritchey, I’ll continue to floss every night. There’s no downside and my mouth feels better for it, even if the science doesn’t fully back me up on this.

Author: Donncha

Donncha Ó Caoimh is a software developer at Automattic and WordPress plugin developer. He posts photos at In Photos and can also be found on Google+ and Twitter.

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