graphic of floss curling out of holder into shape of tooth for oral hygiene conceptThe dental world is abuzz with the news: new national guidelines for oral health don’t include the use of your floss. The Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services released their 2015 dietary guidelines for Americans, and flossing wasn’t included. It’s been included in previous guidelines, so this was a noticeable change that dentists and patients alike are taking under consideration.

Why wasn’t flossing included? Because current evidence doesn’t support its effectiveness in preventing cavities. The American Academy of Periodontology issued a statement that existing studies haven’t examined participants’ gums over a long enough period, or had enough participants to begin with. Studies haven’t conclusively proven that flossing prevents either cavities or advanced periodontal disease.

The American Dental Association’s stance remains the same: that flossing “is an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums.” So what should patients do in this interim? Keep reading for some advice on what existing research does say about your oral hygiene habits’ effectiveness, and consider the role they play in your life.

 What Oral Hygiene Research Does Show

  • A review of existing trials showed some evidence that consistent, correct flossing may reduce plaque.
  • Brushing with fluoride has been shown to prevent decay. Brushing without fluoride hasn’t been shown to produce the same results.
  • There is evidence that flossing reduces inflamed, bleeding gums, which lead to gingivitis. This is the first stage of gum disease, and can progress to periodontitis if left untreated and if oral hygiene does not improve. It’s crucial to prevent gingivitis – and flossing may play a role in keeping it at bay.

What You Can Do, Moving Forward for Effective Cavity Prevention

Learning about this lack of flossing as a recommended practice shouldn’t lead you to toss your floss in the trask. If there’s a chance that flossing is still helping reduce your risk of cavities and gum disease, it’s a good idea to keep at it. Plus, there are other benefits of flossing that you’ll still enjoy, particularly removing food particles from between your teeth to prevent irritation or injury to your soft tissues.

Continue doing the following to help ensure good oral health:

  • Brush with fluoride toothpaste
  • Make sure that you’re flossing correctly, cupping each tooth with floss and sliding it up to the gum line – this gives you the best chance at health benefits
  • Schedule regular dental exams so that we can ensure that you’re cavity- and gum disease-free
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