HARRISON, N.Y. -- Dentists aren't buying into the new federal guidelines that dismiss flossing as unnecessary, pointing to causal evidence and clinical observation that cleaning between teeth is a necessary part of good dental hygiene.
Flossing was dropped in the latest dietary guidelines for Americans, issued every five years by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.
"Of course you should still floss! As a practicing dentist for 40 years, I have seen the benefits of flossing. It is instrumental in preventing tooth decay," said Kenneth Magid, DDS, of Advanced Dentistry of Westchester in Harrison. "We stand firm with The ADA, which stated that flossing is effective and we continue to recommend it to promote oral health."
The article cited a lack of scientific study to prove flossing prevents disease, Magid said, but there are many things that people use and do on a daily basis that have no scientific proof.
Magid pointed to aspirin for preventing second heart attacks, and minoxidil (Rogaine), which is a high blood pressure medicine that had been used off label for male hair loss despite lack of proof it worked.
"I think everything should always be looked at and evaluated. But common sense should win out at end of the day," said Donald Roman, DMD, of Roman Smiles in Paramus. "I don't agree that flossing is a scam. It makes no sense to skip cleaning in between your teeth."
He also said he can "Absolutely can tell a flosser from a non-flosser."
Some things are common sense, he said, and there's no risk in flossing.
"Pretty sure that the long term studies of bathing with soap have not been held up to scientific standards either, but I wouldn’t suggest not doing it," said Timothy Chase, DDS, of Smiles NY. "I would say that while long term studies have not been completed to determine the negative effects of not flossing, the anecdotal evidence of hundreds of years of professional dental treatment have indicated that the mechanic removal of dental plaque from between the teeth and under the gums can only improve your breath, decrease your likelihood of cavities, and reduce your chances of getting gum disease."
The American Dental Association fired back with a statement saying that it's necessary to clean between teeth because plaque is removed from the areas where a toothbrush can't reach.
"More than 500 bacterial species can be found in plaque; some are good and some are bad for your mouth. Together with food debris, water and other components, the plaque buildup around the teeth and on the gum line will contribute to disease in teeth and gums," the ADA said.
A lot of variables affect the health of teeth and gums. Diet plays a huge role, as do genetics, saliva flow, and antibacterial agents in the saliva, according to Kent Brady, DDS, owner of Brady Dental Care with his son Corbin. Regardless, flossing plays a part.
"I was surprised it was removed. We were talking about it yesterday and it doesn’t make sense," said Corbin Brady, DDS, said. "Where flossing gets, that’s so common where the decay is. Just by commonality, we see that flossing work."
Further, gum inflammation progresses to periodontitis, which is bone loss.
"We can usually tell right away when a patient hasn't flossed," said Kent Brady, DDS. "Patients who floss don't have tartar buildup and their gums don't bleed."