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Posted on 8th August 2016

To floss or not to floss

An investigation by the Associated Press in the US has found that there is a lack of proof that flossing is an essential part of oral hygiene.

The letter from the US Department for Health and Human Services and Agriculture admitted in a letter that there has never been any proper research into the benefits of flossing.

This statement is backed up by dentist, and Professor at the University of Birmingham, Damien Walmsley who said there is only “weak evidence” to suggest the benefits of flossing.

Many dentists say that flossing helps remove plaque, bits of food and helps reduce the risk of gingivitis, gum disease and tooth decay.

The American Dental Association (ADA) has defended the role of flossing as a way to take good care of your teeth and gums.

“Cleaning between teeth removes plaque that can lead to cavities or gum disease from areas where a toothbrush can’t reach” said the ADA statement.

The same advice is echoed on the NHS website. They say “Dental floss helps to prevent gum disease by getting rid of pieces of food and plaque from between your teeth.”

The Associated Press claims that the studies that the ADA use for their evidence are outdated and based on a small sample of people.

Looking into other studies over the past ten years found evidence that flossing is unreliable, low quality and even showed a “moderate to large potential for bias”.

Prof Walmsley, who is also a scientific adviser to the British Dental Association, told the BBC: "The difficulty is trying to get good evidence. People are different and large studies are costly to do... until then you can't really say yes or no."

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