It’s a string thing

Following an investigation by the Associated Press, the world’s media has been awash with stories questioning the medical value of flossing in recent weeks.

For the investigation, the AP looked at ‘the most rigorous research’ conducted over the last decade, focusing on 25 studies that compared the use of a toothbrush with the combination of toothbrush and floss.

The investigation found that the evidence of flossing is ‘weak, very unreliable’, of ‘very low quality’, and carries ‘a moderate to large potential for bias’.

However as Professor Damien Walmsley, scientific advisor to the British Dental Association (BDA) points out: ‘the difficulty is trying to get good evidence. People are different and studies are costly to do.’

In light of the news that there’s a lack of evidence supporting the benefits of using dental floss, key opinion leaders and health organisations have been highlighting the importance of regular interdental cleaning.

So what do the experts say?

“Small interdental brushes are preferable for cleaning the area in between teeth, where there is space to do so. Floss is of very little value unless the spaces between your teeth are too tight for the interdental brushes to fit without causing harm or hurting.”
Professor Damien Walmsley

“Evidence supports the use of small interdental brushes for cleaning between teeth, where there is space, in preference to flossing. Floss is not a waste of time – it is a viable alternative to interdental brushing where appropriate. Public England Health makes a similar recommendation’’ – Philip Ower BSP President

Dental professionals have a duty to ensure patients understand the difference between flossing and interdental cleaning and recognise the importance of using interdental brushes as part of their oral hygiene routine at home.

from the magazine Oral Health Vol No 4