The American Dental Association began promoting the use dental floss in 1908. According to the ADA, the benefits of flossing include prevention of plaque buildup commonly found between the teeth and gums. Over time, plaque can form into tartar that leads to gum disease such as gingivitis.
According to HowStuffWorks, other benefits of regular flossing include cost savings due to preventing frequent medical visits and more severe conditions caused by unhealthy teeth and gums.
Brushing your teeth and flossing is widely accepted as a superb example of oral care. The toothbrush cleans the surface area but when you floss before, and afterward, the tiny particles that cannot be reached by the toothbrush bristles are being flushed out too. According to previous promotions, brushing your teeth with your toothbrush alone does not deep clean your teeth as the floss is specialized to do.
However, a flip side has recently been brought to the public’s attention concerning the authenticity of these claims. According to publisher, MarketSizeInfo, half of the global floss market revenue, which may peak at almost $2 billion by 2017, will come from the United States. Companies that have an interest in dental floss revenue shares cannot back the benefit claims, such as reduction of plaque or diseases like gingivitis.
Many industrial dental floss companies partner with the American Dental Association (ADA) using the “Seal of Acceptance” program. The program is designed to incorporate legitimate studies concerning the health benefits of flossing. These studies directly affect the purchase decisions of consumers. The ADA charges each manufacturer an evaluation cost of $14,500, if approved, there is an additional annual fee of $3,500.
Every five years the federal government issues Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Since 1979 the use of dental floss has been recommended. By law, the guidelines must be based on scientific evidence. The newest guidelines exclude the recommendation of dental flossing.
In 2015, the Associated Press (AP), using the Freedom of Information Act, sought scientific evidence from Health and Human Services and Agriculture departments, showing dental floss provides health benefits. The government responded, months later, in a written response to the AP, that no such evidence existed.
The AP began a vigorous research using 25 published studies over the past decade in leading journals that compared the use of a toothbrush versus using a toothbrush and floss. They discovered that health benefits realized from flossing are “weak, very unreliable” and “very low quality, and are potentially biased claims. Most of all, the AP stated that the reviewed studies “fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal.”
According to medical literature, careless flossing can occasionally cause harm, such as damaging teeth and gums. If a person does not floss correctly, the risk of dislodging harmful bacteria into their bloodstream can cause severe infection.
In the 19th century, no evidence for health benefits from flossing teeth was required. Dentists began recommending the use of floss after its first issued patent in 1874. According to vice president of the ADA’s Science Institute, Dr. Marcelo W.B. Araujo DDS., “They just looked into what they did every day in their clinical practice and what they would recommend for patients.”
Scientific adviser to the British Dental Association, Dr. Damien Walmsley DDS., says it’s important to show people the basics, and flossing is not one of them.
National Institutes of Health, Dr. Tim Iafolla DDS., stated it would be appropriate to drop the floss guidelines if being held up to scientific standards, but that people should still floss. He added the reason is that there’s still a possibility that it works.
By Andrea Lopez
HOWSTUFFWORKS: 5 Reasons Why Flossing is Extremely Important
ALTERNET:No Dental Floss? No Problem: Evidence on Flossing’s Benefits Is ‘Weak’
AP THE BIG STORY: Medical benefits of dental floss unproven
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