Feds drop dental flossing recommendations to dentists’ chagrin

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) (10/5/2018) – Chances are good if you go to the dentist, a tooth examination will be followed by the question, “Do you floss your teeth and how often?”

Dental hygienist flossing a patient’s teeth during a periodic tooth cleaning, Photo Date: 2006

Dentists and hygienists know daily flossing lowers the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. The dental world has been recommending it since 1908.

It was strange, then, to learn two years ago that the federal government removed dental flossing as part of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, stating it needed scientific evidence to make such a recommendation.

“Well, dentists were saying, no, you should floss. It is beneficial. It really helps. Even if the government doesn’t recommend, it we recommend it. We see the benefits every day,” said Dr. Lisa Collier with Community Health Alliance.

She said it would be virtually impossible to conduct a scientific study on the benefits of dental flossing. That’s because she said researchers would have to compare two groups, one that is told to floss while the other group is told not to floss.

Such a study could last several years, Collier said, and dental experts know what would happen to the group that did not floss.

“So it is really not ethical to have a whole group of people not floss, when we know it would be good for them,” she said.

Two years after the flossing recommendation was rescinded, she doesn’t see much change in her patients’ habits, other than the loss of a recommendation may have reinforced their positions.

That means those who don’t want to floss will use the lack of scientific evidence to remain floss-free. Those who do floss are simply ignoring what can’t be scientifically proven but that still means positive dental checkups.