To floss or not to floss

IDA president plays down reports criticising use of dental floss

The president of the Irish Dental Association, periodontist PJ Byrne, has played down recent reports criticising the use of dental floss.

The Associated Press in the US ran a story that claimed the medical benefits of flossing were unproven and cited a Cochrane review of 25 studies that generally compared the use of a toothbrush with the combination of toothbrushes and floss. The conclusions were that the evidence for flossing is “weak, very unreliable,” of “very low” quality, and carries “a moderate to large potential for bias”.

However, Dr Byrne said “it is not all about flossing, there are many other ways of cleaning between your teeth“.

He continued: “If you actually look at the review and the author’s conclusions, one of the key lines actually says that the results supports the use of regular floss, with toothbrushing.

“The confusion is that there is a lack of robust evidence in terms of the reduction in dental decay by flossing in between the teeth.“

Dr Byrne’s views are backed up by the recommendation from the 11th European Workshop on the prevention of gum diseases (2015) to patients: “Daily cleaning between your teeth using special interdental brushes is essential for treating and preventing gum disease. Floss is of little value unless the spaces between your teeth are too tight for the interdental brushes to fit without hurting or causing harm.“