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Dental Floss May Have No Medical Benefits, Says AP Report (gizmodo.com) 257

Joe_NoOne quotes a report from Gizmodo: Flossing may not yield the protective benefits we've been told to expect. Since 1979, the federal government in the U.S. has recommended daily flossing, but by law these dietary guidelines, which are updated every five years, have to be supported by scientific evidence. Surprisingly -- and without any notice -- the federal government dropped flossing from its dietary guidelines this year, telling the Associated Press that "the government acknowledged the effectiveness of flossing had never been researched, as required." AP national writer Jeff Donn reports: "The two leading professional groups -- the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Periodontology, for specialists in gum disease and implants -- cited other studies as proof of their claims that flossing prevents buildup of gunk known as plaque, early gum inflammation called gingivitis, and tooth decay. However, most of these studies used outdated methods or tested few people. Some lasted only two weeks, far too brief for a cavity or dental disease to develop. One tested 25 people after only a single use of floss. Such research, like the reviewed studies, focused on warning signs like bleeding and inflammation, barely dealing with gum disease or cavities. Wayne Aldredge, president of the periodontists' group, acknowledged the weak scientific evidence and the brief duration of many studies...Still, he urges his patients to floss to help avoid gum disease. 'It's like building a house and not painting two sides of it,' he said. 'Ultimately those two sides are going to rot away quicker.'"
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Dental Floss May Have No Medical Benefits, Says AP Report

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  • Mine has aluminum siding.

    • by I'm New Around Here ( 1154723 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @01:57AM (#52633733)

      So do some of my teeth.

    • by lucm ( 889690 )

      yes the analogy sucks and is wrong.

      building a house and not painting two sides of it

      Warren Buffet made his initial investment in Capital Cities (now ABC) in part because only the front of the head office had been painted, not the back (he likes cheapskates).

      • It depends on what your siding is made of. If it's unpainted wood, you're going to have serious problems before long (unless it's certain woods that actually work unpainted as siding, I think cedar is one).

        Commercial buildings are usually not made with wood framing and wood siding, unless they're small; usually they're made of things like concrete, brick, etc. Painting concrete is a purely cosmetic step.

  • Floss (Score:5, Informative)

    by 31415926535897 ( 702314 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2016 @11:43PM (#52633301) Journal

    I have lots of experience over the years, (with me), and I've done it every way.

    Floss. That's all there is to it. You will have trouble with your gums and with cavities if you don't.

    You don't have to floss every day. Once a week is enough. Your dentist won't even be able to tell the difference.

    • Re:Floss (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @12:06AM (#52633365)

      Pretty much this, though I now floss every day. (And I live somewhere where it's not usual.)
      In fact, I'd recommend flossing only over brushing only.

      I've had a lot of gum and tooth issues at once, and it always was between the teeth. Turns out, the gaps between my teeth got bigger and I had a lot of shit getting stuck there. Now that Ifloss, I haven't had any new issues, but there's some permanent damage.

      Anyway, when I remove something that was stuck between my teeth I instantly feel much better.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by lucm ( 889690 )

        Anyway, when I remove something that was stuck between my teeth I instantly feel much better.

        Use condoms even for oral sex, that should solve your problem.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        I have similar issues and found that the best combination was a Panasonic water jet thing and mouthwash.

        The water jet thing is like flossing but uses water to get in where it's hard to get string. There are various brands, including the original "Waterpik", but the batteries on the Waterpik die after a year and are non-replaceable. Panasonic do one with an internal battery and one that takes AAs, guess which one I went for.

        The Panasonic product like is called "Doltz" in Japan, but presumably they didn't use

        • Waterpik has plugin models.

          Generally, you want a model with a low pulse rate, like waterpik provides. A high pulse rate isn't much different from continuous flow; your mouth fills with water much more quickly without cleaning more effectively.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            The Panasonic one has a low and high speed switch. I prefer wireless I think. Either way, it seems more effective than flossing. The amount of debris it dislodges is quite surprising.

    • Re: Floss (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Defakto ( 813358 )
      This isn't necessarily true. I had a similar conversation with my dentist. He had one client who was a religious floss we and brusher, they have terrible teeth. Multiple root canals, at least 12 fillings. Then there's me. I rarely floss unless I can tell something is stuck, then I do to get it out. The strength of your teeth is mainly genetic and environment. Sadly my son has his mother's teeth and already has problems.
    • Re:Floss (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jomama717 ( 779243 ) <jomama717@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @12:18AM (#52633419) Journal
      I don't care if there is no evidence of medical benefit, or correlation with cavities/gum disease - those things are intangible. Flossing teeth after just 2-3 days of NOT flossing produces so much gross tangible stuff from between the teeth I still feel a lot better after doing it, no matter what.

      I'm going to guess there is no evidence of medical benefit to applying deodorant every day, but FFS please do.
    • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

      I have lots of experience over the years, (with me), and I've done it every way.

      Floss. That's all there is to it. You will have trouble with your gums and with cavities if you don't.

      And your breath will be more pleasant. There is nothing worse than talking to someone who's breath makes you want to vomit.

      You don't have to floss every day. Once a week is enough. Your dentist won't even be able to tell the difference.

      Thank you. I always wondered if flossing once a week was enough, but I see I am not the only one - plus the gum massage feels pretty good. Most of all be true to your teeth and they won't be false to you :)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @12:30AM (#52633449)
      1. Floss
      2. Smell used floss
      3. Be totally grossed out.
      4. Floss forever.

      Story is a beat up. They didn't say it makes no difference. They just said the research supporting it was old and had poor methodology, possibly because "Big Floss" didn't think "floss research" was worth throwing money at and people have been doing it anyway because it's common sense.

      So another clickbait headline which will have AP's media customers rubbing their hands with glee, but misleading and many people will take away the wrong conclusion.
      • absolutely this.

        There is one spot in the upper left quadrant where I can taste/smell the bacteria pocket getting disturbed if I haven't flossed for a week or more. This is despite twice a day thorough brushing.

        I can also tell that my gums are healthier when I am in the flossing habit.

      • by dj245 ( 732906 )

        1. Floss 2. Smell used floss 3. Be totally grossed out. 4. Floss forever. Story is a beat up. They didn't say it makes no difference. They just said the research supporting it was old and had poor methodology, possibly because "Big Floss" didn't think "floss research" was worth throwing money at and people have been doing it anyway because it's common sense. So another clickbait headline which will have AP's media customers rubbing their hands with glee, but misleading and many people will take away the wrong conclusion.

        There's a legitimate medical question here. The existing studies are not great and some have conflicting results. I agree that flossing has many benefits (odor being a huge one) but the floss manufacturers make various claims as to the medical benefit which aren't backed up. Yet. Given proper study, medical benefits will probably be shown. There are many different floss materials, different coatings, etc. There are even non-floss floss-type products, like the awful flossing sticks. Some may work bet

    • You don't have to floss every day. Once a week is enough. Your dentist won't even be able to tell the difference.

      That's a really great idea, thanks. (great because for me, it's achievable).

    • Floss is part of the past. Go for interdental brush [rdhmag.com].
    • You don't have to floss every day. Once a week is enough. Your dentist won't even be able to tell the difference.

      Well, kinda. You have to floss frequently enough such that the plaque that remains after brushing doesn't have enough time to become calculus, because neither brushing or flossing will get that off. Some people can get away with once per week, and others will have to do it more frequently. Plaque can also give you bad breath, so while it might not be strictly necessary to floss often, your
    • by pr100 ( 653298 )

      And there we have it - a double blind clinical trial with a statistically significant result.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      In some countries restaurants provide toothpicks, and it's socially acceptable to use them in public. Combined with mouthwash I don't think flossing is necessary, and in fact it's probably somewhat inferior to mouthwash in terms of getting in all the nooks and crannies.

      Also, charcoal toothpaste is amazing.

    • I have lots of experience over the years, (with me), and I've done it every way.

      Floss. That's all there is to it. You will have trouble with your gums and with cavities if you don't.

      You don't have to floss every day. Once a week is enough. Your dentist won't even be able to tell the difference.

      Hardly a clinical trial

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      So because you flossed it worked? I have some snake oil for you.

  • Rotting Meat (Score:4, Insightful)

    by labnet ( 457441 ) on Tuesday August 02, 2016 @11:54PM (#52633337)

    Fine, don't floss:
    but when you have a conversation with me, and you a piece of rotting meat stuck in your mouth for days on end, I'm taking 10 paces back.

    • by ADRA ( 37398 )

      Yes, there's a good distinction between social etiquetteand a medical association telling us that its good to do so. The government also doesn't say to stand more than a foot or two from someone when you're talking to them, but that's also good etiquette.

  • by dohzer ( 867770 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @12:04AM (#52633357) Homepage

    Did they study what happens if you have a little bit of orange gunk stuck between your teeth and would have a breakdown if you couldn't use floss to remove it?

  • Apparently there's no medial study that clearly demonstrates that jumping out the window is bad for your health.

  • I'm not sure that I can buy into the "flossing is useless" argument.

    I know when I floss I get all sorts of little bits and pieces of food particles coming out, and having that stuff sitting up in your gums for days or weeks DOES contribute to things like gingivitis and other types of gum disease. And I know for a fact that when I started flossing regularly the condition of my gums improved significantly, and I have the dental records to prove it. Maybe I'm atypical in that regard, but I doubt it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They didn't say "flossing is useless". They said flossing hasn't been studied properly, so by law, they are not allowed to put it in the official guidelines.

  • My gums will bleed while I brush after a few weeks. if I floss regularly they don't. Good enough for me.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @12:36AM (#52633471) Journal
    Not everything we know comes from randomized, large-scale trials. There are other ways to gain knowledge. This link shows why randomized, large-scale trials are not always the best idea [bmj.com].
    • by jdavidb ( 449077 )

      Wow, I wish someone had read this when I had two children age 2 and under and the government took all the infant cold and flu medication off the market because there was "no direct evidence" that the medicine helped children that young.

      (I still think taking medicine away from babies is one of the most despicable things a person could ever do. How do they sleep at night? Probably better than all the parents with sick children who can barely breathe, I guess.)

  • Just have the study participants floss only half (the same half) of their mouth every day. Monitor their oral health for several years. If flossing makes a significant difference in dental decay, it should become obvious by the differing rate of decay of flossed and unflossed teeth.

    It seems to me that this would be a reasonable approach to a study. Aside from flossing, the oral health of each subject should be the same on both sides of the mouth. That means you wouldn't have to account as much for variation

  • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @02:36AM (#52633815)
    Lyrics by Frank Zappa [metrolyrics.com].

    I might be movin' to Montana soon

    Just to raise me up a crop of Dental Floss

    Raisin' it up

    Waxin' it down

    In a little white box that

    I can sell uptown

    By myself I wouldn't

    Have no boss,

    But I'd be raisin' my lonely Dental Floss

    Raisin' my lonely Dental Floss

  • I am sure that unwaxed floss is more effective at "cleaning" the surface of the teeth than waxed floss. Waxed floss glides effortlessly over the surface and there is little or no friction. Without friction, how can waxed floss scrape the surface of the tooth?? Any study on the effectiveness of flossing has to distinguish between the use of waxed and unwaxed floss. But try to find unwaxed floss when you need to buy some! Most drugstores sell only waxed floss or keep very little unwaxed floss in stock.
  • wrong headline (Score:5, Insightful)

    by prefec2 ( 875483 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @02:58AM (#52633869)

    So the true story is that the claim has not been prooven. This makes the claim not false, it makes it untested and unverified. As the claim still can be tested , it is not a believe. So the ball lies now in the corner of dental floss researchers to evaluate the effect in a real study.

  • FLOSS (Score:5, Funny)

    by MancunianMaskMan ( 701642 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @03:04AM (#52633895)
    Wot no gnu logo here? https://www.gnu.org/philosophy... [gnu.org]

    Oh /. where art thou!

  • Here in Germany flossing is quite uncommon and I know only few persons that even own floss. Dentists also never seem to mention it. However, I do not know how dental health here compares to the one in the US and assume that other factors play a much bigger role then.
    • by henni16 ( 586412 )

      Well, here's a German who flosses daily before going to bed.
      Maybe it's because some of my teeth are very close together and there's no chance for a brush to get between them, but I can feel the difference before and after flossing so that l still feel a bit dirty if I just brush without flossing.

      What I think makes a way bigger difference than flossing or not: using an electric toothbrush.

  • Not just floss. Parachutes, too, suffer from a serious shortage of controlled trials demonstrating their efficacy.

    Smith, Gordon CS, and Jill P. Pell. "Parachute use to
    prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge:
    systematic review of randomised controlled trials."
    British Medical Journal 327.7429 (2003): 1459.

    Article here. [wisc.edu]

    • Just use extrapolation / induction. Parachutes are not helpful for 10 foot jumps Parachutes are not helpful for 20 foot jumps. Therefor, parachutes are not helpful for jumps greater than 20 feet.
  • I must say that since I started flossing regularly, I have not had any more big fillings done on my teeth. If you get cavities between your teeth the dentist can't drill a small hole into it from the side and is obliged to make a big filling from the tooth's top surface. I normally only floss every second day, or when I have eaten sugary foods. I think a lot of it could be genetic - people with widely-spaced teeth probably won't get much tooth decay between their teeth.

  • I have always been a regular brusher but couldn't stand flossing so I didn't, and nearly every dentist I ever used nagged about it constantly.

    Due to job changes and ambivalence and dislike of dental practice, I didn't go to the dentist for about 2 years. I had an old filling break, which basically forced me to go the dentist. I figured I probably had several cavities since I typically had at least one every dental visit, so I looked for a dentist who did sedation so I could get them all fixed at once in t

  • They dropped the recommendation since the legal requirements for evidence were not met. That's not the same thing as stating flossing has no benefits. Although from some associated stories folks were saying modern toothbrushes were able to clean the same areas as flossing, which implies flossing may once have been useful but no longer useful. For myself, I will keep doing it due to the various bits of food that get stuck here and there. My toothbrush might get them, unless I am not as careful or not paying
  • My wife flosses every day, and she has expensive periodontal issues.

    I never floss, and I have no issues. I use, properly, a sonic care toothbrush two to three times a day. I use Listerine after brushing, and a fluoride rinse after that. I go to the dentist every 5 years or so. I have no cavities and no gum issues,

    In 2006, I went to the dentist to fix a broken tooth (mtn climbing injury .. ouch!) I had a cleaning, and the dental tech said, "I can see that you floss everyday. I can tell" -- I said, lyi

  • I suspect the gigantic floss lobby is behind all of this!

    Seriously though, update your studies already. Lazy science. Likely the dental associations never bothered because they were never required to.

    Also horrible analogy and pretty insulting from a medical point of view. Kinda like saying we have no proof, but think it helps anyway, here I'll site a poor analogy that makes no sense yet give you the impression that you should just take my word for it because I think it is common sense...

  • ... to tell me that leaving food to rot between my teeth in a bacteria-rich environment is a dumb idea.

    My teeth are very crowded in places and even a thorough 2-minute brushing with an electric toothbrush and a rinse with mouthwash aren't enough to clean out the tight spaces. When my wisdom teeth were coming in, they hurt like hell, so I was avoiding regular flossing around them. Once I finally had them removed, I had a cavity in the spot where one of the wisdom teeth had pressed against the rear molar.

  • There's never been a true, randomized large-scale trial of people being deprived of oxygen. Maybe AP national writer Jeff Donn should try going against conventional wisdom and tie a plastic bags firmly in place over his head.

    Or maybe... just maybe, the obvious benefits of scraping out the shit that's stuck between your teeth doesn't need to be proven by a large scale trial any more than the benefits of not suffocating.

  • I never floss... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by smithmc ( 451373 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2016 @02:00PM (#52637401) Journal
    ...and every six months when I go the dentist for a checkup and cleaning, they tell me "whatever you're doing, keep it up!". So I keep not flossing...

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