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At Long Last, the Truth About Flossing Your Teeth

August 5, 2016
Plain English Version


Most dentists belong to the American Dental Association (ADA). It is a respected group. Since 1908, the ADA has recommended that people floss their teeth. Since 1979, the federal government has recommended flossing.

The Associated Press recently decided that it wanted to know if there was a good reason for flossing. It looked at hundreds of past studies. This is what it learned. The studies were not well done. They did not show that people in the studies had fewer cavities or less gum disease. They did not show that flossing improved dental health.

Without good studies, there is no way to show that flossing helps. Flossing can even do damage. For example, flossing can irritate sore gums. Flossing does remove food from between teeth. This makes people feel better. Removing food does not seem to improve dental health.

So why does the ADA still recommend flossing? It says, “Flossing is an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums.”

The federal government is careful with its recommendations. It must have solid proof that it is saying the right thing. There is no solid proof that flossing helps. The government no longer recommends it.

Selling floss is a big business. Big companies like Johnson & Johnson partner with the ADA. They get an ADA seal of approval. It gives consumers a sense of trust in the value of the product.

The ADA and the industry still stand behind the value of flossing. They realize that there is no real evidence that it works. They agree that the studies are weak.

The last word goes to a dental expert. “It is low risk, low cost. We know there is a possibility that it works. We feel comfortable telling people to go ahead and do it.”

Source: The New York Times August 2, 2016

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