Does Flossing Prevent Tooth Decay?

We’ve been told all our lives to use dental floss to clean between our teeth. Some of us do it and some don’t, but how much difference does it really make? To answer the question, we turn to the research, but -surprise!- there hasn’t been all that much of it.

A review of flossing in children found it could reduce decay, but in adults it’s not been as easy to demonstrate. A review published by the respected Cochrane Collaboration in 2012 gathered all the existing research on flossing and found just 12 trials, mostly conducted in the US, where adults were randomised either to brush their teeth as usual or to floss in addition.

They weren’t impressed with what they found. Combining the results of the studies and re-analysing them, they found a possible small reduction in plaque, but the studies’ evidence was graded as weak and very unreliable. “We are unable to claim or refute a benefit for flossing plus toothbrushing,” they said. A reduction in plaque would suggest a reduction in tooth decay in the long-term, but not a single long-term randomised controlled trial had been done (the longest was nine months). None had included an assessment of tooth decay because it would be too soon to see any difference.

So we really don’t know if flossing leads to a significant reduction in tooth decay. That’s no reason to give it up, because tooth decay is not the only bad thing that can happen to your mouth. Research does show that flossing leads to an 8% reduction in the risk of gingivitis. And besides, your teeth will be cleaner. Read more about the research, or lack of it, at BBC News.  -via Digg

(Image credit: Torill Kove)


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