Floss your teeth daily? Turns out you might be wasting your time

Stop Feeling Guilty About Not Flossing

If you had time to floss your teeth this morning in between throwing on your clothes, grabbing a coffee and running out of the door, chances are you're feeling pretty smug right now.

However, good news for those of us who weren't as organised in their dental hygiene routine - a leading British dentist has said that there is only "weak evidence" that flossing prevents gum disease and cavities.

That's right, folks, time to reconsider everything your mother and dentist drilled into your brain growing up. Damien Walmsley, of Birmingham University, said the time and expense required for reliable studies mean the health claims often attributed to floss are unproven.

This cat is definitely not doing it right (Jeff Horner/AP)
This cat is definitely not doing it right (Jeff Horner/AP)

Walmsley is also a scientific adviser to the British Dental Association, and his claims will no doubt send shockwaves through the profession. Whilst not completely shunning floss, Walmsley thinks "more sophisticated trials" are needed.

Although a maverick in the English dental world, Walmsley is by no means alone on a global scale. Earlier this year, the US government dropped the flossing recommendation from its guidelines because they must be legally based on scientific evidence.

Fear not, because a Public Health England spokeswoman said it keeps "abreast of the evidence base and will consider these findings".

Is everything we learnt here lies? (Matt Smith/AP)
Is everything we learnt here lies? (Matt Smith/AP)

An Associated Press investigation looked at the most rigorous research of the past decade. Twenty-five studies in leading journals found evidence for flossing is "weak, very unreliable", of "very low quality", and carries "a moderate to large potential for bias".

One review conducted last year said: "The majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal."

One study did credit floss with a slight reduction in gum inflammation. However, the reviewers ranked the evidence as "very unreliable".

We never thought we'd see the day.

We can't say we'd miss this (Julio Cortez/AP)
We can't say we'd miss this (Julio Cortez/AP)

Floss can even cause harm, with poor technique leading to damaged gums and teeth and also dislodging bad bacteria, which can lead to infections.

The British Dental Association said: "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."

The dentist credited with inventing floss in the early 19th century, Levi Spear Parmly, would be spinning in his grave.

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