Experts: Little Evidence Flossing is Beneficial

I confess, I’m not a very dedicated flosser. Throughout my life I have had numerous dentists lambast me about flossing.

“Do you floss?”          “You are not flossing often enough!” 

“Don’t use a floss pick, use the thread! It works much better!”

“Let me show you the right way you’re supposed to floss!”

These are some of the comments I’ve heard over the years. In my dentists’ collective opinions, my flossing was never quite up to snuff.

One dentist gave me a plastic tool, called Floss Fingers, designed to wrap floss around to make it easier to floss. Knowing that I hate flossing, my dental hygienist finally talked me into using a HydroFloss. HydroFloss and Waterpik are the power-washers of flossing world. I even add a mouth rinse containing hydrogen peroxide and alcohol to boost the HydroFloss’ effectiveness.

According to the American Dental Association, it’s not enough to brush your teeth twice a day. You also need to floss.  To hear my dentists talk, flossing is next to Godliness! Flossing is the way you prove you’re a true believer. It’s like going to church on Wednesday night. You do it to show you are committed to your faith.

My wife is a true believer. She is obsessive about flossing. She carries floss everywhere she goes; she never leaves the house without it. My wife singlehandedly keeps the floss manufacturers in business. Whenever my dentist gives me a little parting goodie bag that contains a toothbrush, a travel sized toothpaste and a small roll of floss in a little travel dispenser, I always give the floss to my wife because I know how happy it makes her to have it in her purse. One day I bought her some cinnamon-flavored floss. She loves cinnamon. And floss. What a combination! She loved it.

A study from years ago even tried to tie gum disease, and by logical extension — not flossing — to hardening of the arteries leading to premature heart disease. Later experts found it wasn’t true. And that’s not all. The New York Times recently published an analysis of flossing from the academic literature. Apparently, a dozen randomized trials with control groups found very little evidence that flossing reduces plaque. An article in Slate argues that flossing seems to be an American obsession promoted by Big Floss. The slate writer emailed the author of a study on flossing from the Netherlands. Daily flossing has long been a recommendation of the American Dental Association. Dr. van der Weijden replied: “There is no scientific evidence to support this recommendation should be given to the general public.”


Dr. van der Weijden agreed that people who develop gum disease should clean between their teeth. “But based on our work … wood sticks would appear to be the most efficient tool, and in the case of open interdental spaces, interdental brushes are the first choice.”

Basically a tooth pick is better than flossing. I’m considering sending this study to every dentists I’ve seen over the last 50 years.


Comments (11)

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  1. Perry says:

    “Experts” also say evidence does not support routine skin exams, yet malignant melanoma is on the rise.
    I’ll stick to flossing and getting those skin exams.

    • Ron Greiner says:

      Mental illness is also on the rise so maybe you better get some brain scans too, along with your mental floss.

    • Devon Herrick says:

      When you get ready for your routine skin exam, you should call to ask about Botox, according to this New York Times article from 2008. Apparently preventive exams like routine skin exams don’t pay well — especially if the patient is on Medicare. Many dermatologists are boosting their incomes by offering cosmetic services. Some even have two different phone numbers. In one case, a dermatologist had two different doors and two different waiting rooms. Need a routine skin check, call Dr. Smith and wait two months for the next available appointment. Think you may want Botox, “No problem. Dr. Smith has an opening this week!”

  2. Ron Greiner says:

    Devon, the monopoly Blue Cross of Alabama is really scamming the consumer and taxpayers: 40% rate increase!!

    –Blue Cross is the only insurance company that will offer Alabamians individual insurance plans through the exchange next year after the departure of Humana and UnitedHealth. Those departures were announced earlier this year.

    The hefty rate hikes for Blue Cross customers will come on the heels of another increase in 2016 that averaged 28 percent for individual plans.–

    The 36 Blue Cross companies got Obamacare passed.

    It is just like single payer now.

    • Barry Carol says:

      Fourteen of the 36 Blues are owned by Anthem. They don’t seem to be making any money on exchange plans. It’s pretty obvious to me that the problem is adverse selection, not profiteering.

      • Ron Greiner says:

        Barry, you know Obamacare was passed to run all of the Individual Insurance companies out of business, mission accomplished. Now employer-based plans have no competition and can raise prices.

        Blue Cross’s cash cow – their MOO-LAU – is employer-based plans because they just TERMINATE their sick employees’ health insurance when they get cancer.

        Florida Blue Cross gives more to politicians than any other entity in Florida. Blue Cross just buys the politicians and they get all of the government contracts and they passed Obamacare – you know that.

      • Allan says:

        A problem might be adverse selection, but the cause is the ACA and collectivism.

        • Ron Greiner says:

          You are way to kind Allan. It is more like the government is the Mafia and Blue Cross is buying protection.

          Modern USA Government – you have to pay to play!

  3. Yancey Ward says:

    If you are prone to getting food stuck between the teeth, I would floss. Picks can work near the gum line quite effectively, but I find it easier to get at the molars with floss. However, if you are like me, I find rinsing well by forcing the rinse between the teeth works just as well as flossing, even when the brushing hasn’t dislodged anything.