August 3rd, 2016
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The enthusiasm with which American dental professionals promote flossing despite the evidence, has raised the notion of a conspiracy with floss manufacturers. I don’t believe for a second that American dentists are in cahoots with floss makers, but why do they cling to the notion that floss is a good idea and keep recommending it? Perhaps because, like flossing, it’s a habit and after over a century of promoting the use of floss, it must be extremely difficult to backtrack and say: “Houston, we may have a problem.”
The Brits never had that dilemma. As a nation we were never great flossers anyway and now we know that our patients had an uncanny and instinctively accurate inkling that the lacklustre recommendations of their dentists and hygienists were best ignored.
But even with the best technique, the evidence doesn’t support flossing as an adjunct to brushing. Most patients, even if they bother to get the minty-waxed out the box, are exceptionally heavy-handed and macerate their gums like they’ve been chewing on bare vacuum cleaner flex. Even in controlled studies, after instruction, the patients taking part couldn’t floss properly. I know of no dentist who flosses. Not one. And of the colleagues who don’t walk away bored witless when I have broached the subject of flossing, most admit that when they tried it, it was really difficult to do effectively, even with their assumed level of dexterity.