If you’re like most people, you probably remember going to the dentist and getting a lesson about brushing your teeth, flossing, avoiding pops, and other sugary foods. All this was meant to keep your teeth healthy and to avoid problems like cavities, or even more serious conditions like gum disease. While brushing and a healthy diet are still considered to be important, a recent investigation by the Associated Press has called into question on just why flossing has been so heavily promoted.
The investigation in context
The American Dental Association (ADA) began recommending flossing for dental health since 1979 — and has every five years since, while writing its Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Governments worldwide, public organizations, like Britain’s National Health Service, individual dentists, and manufactures of dental products, have also all heavily promoted flossing as a good health practice.
What the Associated Press (AP) found
Of course dentists and businesses who promote dental products, can do so with any kind of product that they like. However, when a government organization does this, they make sure to only recommend the practices that have been scientifically proven to have significant health benefits. This is where the AP investigation comes into play.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the AP wrote to the American Dental Association, the British Dental Association, and other organizations, to find out more about the scientific basis for the promotion of flossing. What the ADA came up with was — well, not much proof that this dental hygiene practice has any benefits at all.
In response to this, the Associated Press launched an investigation of its own, to find out more about the actual scientific basis for the promotion of flossing. To do this, they looked at 25 separate studies on dental hygiene that were published in the last 10 years. What it found was that the scientific backing for this recommended practice was:
- poorly correlated
- generated from low quality studies or
- carrying a moderate to large potential for bias
In short, there is no good scientific evidence to show that flossing will bring any health benefits.
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