Flossing Doesn’t Work? Says Who?


If flossing has been recommended by dentists and hygienists for years, why isn’t there proof that flossing works? Recently, the newspaper, the internet and the TV have been blasted with articles claiming that “there is little proof that flossing works”. This statement was inappropriately fed to the media and will likely have a negative effect on the dental health of many people.

Every periodontal office sees the benefits of flossing on an hourly basis. People that don’t floss routinely wind up in the periodontal office with gum disease. People that have periodontal treatment and don’t floss after their treatment typically need to be retreated. People that floss correctly tend to stay healthy.

Why is there a lack of studies to support the benefit of flossing? Studies cost money and most studies are funded and supported by businesses. Big business companies are not going fund research on “preventive measures” that essentially would diminish their profitability. Therefore, to date there have only been a handful of studies and those studies are not necessarily noteworthy.

All scientists know that a study is only as good as it is designed. Scientific evidence is gathered through lengthy investigations with specific parameters and controls. If evaluated, the studies from which this information was prepared would not meet the appropriate criteria.

Another critical factor noted by supporters of flossing – did the participants in the research floss correctly? Most people that come to our periodontal office are very surprised to learn that although they may have been flossing they have been ineffective in their efforts. After coaching each patient individually to enhance their flossing technique, they can achieve excellent results and are able to maintain good periodontal health long- term.

The media articles also mentioned that flossing can occasionally cause harm, exhibited by floss cuts or even recession. This can happen when people floss too frequently or too vigorously. Again, instruction is essential. Unfortunately, insurers do not pay dentists or hygienists to spend time instructing their patients on how to floss. We include this coaching in every treatment plan we do, because our practice is prevention-focused. Insurance simply doesn’t pay for prevention.

So, to floss or not to floss? If you choose not to floss…travel at your own risk. Chances are much more likely we’ll be seeing you soon!