You might spend a good part of your morning and night working a thin little string between each of your teeth, making sure to scrub away at every nook and cranny. After all, dentists have been telling Canadians for years that flossing is an essential part of maintaining oral health.
But according to a new report by the Associated Press, the evidence that flossing keeps your mouth healthy is “weak” at best. The report cites 25 studies that compared people who brush their teeth against people who both brush and floss. What researchers found was that the evidence to support flossing was “very unreliable,” of “very low” quality and carries “a moderate to large potential for bias.”
“The majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal,” said one review conducted last year.
Researchers aren’t the only ones doubting the merits of flossing either. When the U.S. government issued its dietary guidelines this year, it removed the flossing recommendation altogether.
That said, Canadian dentists don’t want anyone to stop just yet.
“I can tell you as a dental professional, flossing is key,” dentist Natalie Archer said. “We often say in the office ‘floss the teeth you want to keep.'”
Archer says it’s obvious when a patient hasn’t been flossing, and that she was “shocked” by the U.S. report. She believes the findings could come down to whether or not individuals are actually flossing their teeth correctly. And she’s concerned it may be harder to convince people about the merits of flossing in the future.
“How I would floss my teeth would be very different probably than the average person or public or patient out there. In fact, if we’re not flossing properly or in a C-shaped manner, we may be flossing but not flossing properly for it to be effective.”
For the record, Canadian guidelines around flossing haven’t changed. So how can you make sure you’re doing it correctly?
According to the Canadian Dental Association, you should begin by tearing off a piece of floss that is roughly the same length between your hand and shoulder. The floss should be wound around the index and middle finger with about two inches of space between. You then want to wrap the product around each tooth to create a C-shape at its base, where you then slide the floss from bottom to top about two or three times. Flossing, by the way, should come before brushing.
For more information about the study, check out the video above.