Cosmetic Dentistry Blog Cosmetic and General Dentistry Questions Answered

August 3, 2016

So does flossing really help?


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So the Drudge Report yesterday linked an article from the British newspaper The Guardian about flossing. The link said, “Smile! Now experts decide flossing makes no difference.” The article in The Guardian is titled “Everyone recommends flossing – but there’s hardly any proof it works.” I’m not going to give the article any respect by linking to it–if you want to read it you’ll have to Google it.

But I can sum up the article in one word–ridiculous.

There is strong evidence through multiple scientific studies that flossing helps prevent both gum disease and interproximal tooth decay. In my dental practice, I could tell whether or not a patient was flossing simply by examining their gums. In fact, the science is so carefully calibrated that dentists can predict how long it would take a patient with inflamed gums to bring the inflammation under control with daily flossing. Two weeks of regular, daily flossing would do the job. In my practice that timing worked every time.

And rarely do regular flossers get interproximal tooth decay.

But if you go back and re-read the article, it’s fairly easy to detect the slant in the writing. Notice that the article doesn’t say there is no proof. It is titled there is “hardly any proof.” Think that through. That means there is proof.

Further along in the article it says: “A major review last year concluded: ‘The majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal.'” Notice again the wording, which admits that there are studies that demonstrate the benefits of plaque removal, but it’s not a majority of studies, or rather, it’s not a majority of the studies that were available to the person that made this comment.

Let me play this same word game with the benefits of showering. I could say something like this: “The vast majority of studies published in American medical journals fail to demonstrate that showering prevents body odor.”

Well, you may respond, the vast majority of studies in American medical journals don’t even deal with the subject of showering.

Oh, you’re so smart.

And this article in The Guardian is so stupid.

Dr. Hall

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About David A. Hall

Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.

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