It’s been six months since your last teeth cleaning. You arrive at your appointment and get called to head to the back by your hygienist. As she begins cleaning your teeth, she asks the question we all dread. “How often do you floss?” If you’re like many people, you might stretch the truth, or justify telling a white lie since you DID use a toothpick after dinner a few nights back.
Maybe now—lucky you!–you won’t have to answer that question any longer. Just recently the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services stated that flossing has been not been proven to be effective, and removed it from their dietary guidelines.
Well, slow down, my friend. You’re not off the hook just yet.
While this bold statement is technically true, there are still a few things to consider. First, the guidelines don’t say that flossing is bad or ineffective; they’re just saying there isn’t enough evidence in studies to prove it does help. The difference may feel like a matter of semantics, so for your own peace of mind, ask any dentist if you should floss. But you probably already know what their answer will be.
Your teeth consist of five surfaces, and brushing your teeth will hit all but two. Flossing will take care of the two remaining surfaces (the surfaces between your teeth) and ensure that plaque does not become tartar, which eats away at your teeth and gums. While flossing can help prevent tooth decay, a study by the Central for Disease Control shows that only 30% of the U.S. population flosses daily.