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Should you really stop flossing?


closeup on young woman with dental floss
Photo: Thinkstock/Central IT Alliance

It’s one of the most commonly suggested wellness practices, but it turns out there’s no hard scientific evidence that it’s doing anything at all.

No, I’m not talking about meditation (there are many studies on about that), I’m talking about the one of the most basic hygiene rules in your life: flossing.

According to a new report by The Associated Press, there is no evidence or studies that prove flossing does anything beneficial. And although the federal government has recommended flossing since 1979, these official guidelines, by law, need to be based on scientific evidence—which exists, but the studies have not been extensive enough to be considered credible.

So in a shocking twist, when the federal government issued its latest dietary guidelines this year, the flossing recommendation had been removed, without much announcement or notice, along with a letter to AP acknowledging that the research wasn’t there.

Understandably, many people are upset about this rule change. Years of guilt from a dental professional will do that to a person. But anyone who has ever flossed has seen the evidence that it’s working (try getting that popcorn kernel out of your teeth without it). And interest in oral health as key wellness practice has been on the upswing for years—which is why your friend keeps trying to get you to try the Ayurvedic practices of oil pulling and tongue scraping.

So it’s not a surprise that many dentists have jumped into the conversation to announce that they will still urge their patients to floss daily.

Wayne Aldredge, DDS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, stresses that while the studies are limited, there is enough evidence to indicate that flossing helps break down plaque, which will help prevent diseases down the line: “It’s like building a house and not painting two sides of it,” Dr. Aldredge told AP. “Ultimately those two sides are going to rot away quicker.”

While the consensus remains divided, let this ultimately be a lesson in stress relief for the night before the dentist, when you try to make six months of flossing happen in one day.

Speaking of dazzling smiles: Try this beauty trick for a more confidence instantly. And while you’re at it, check out these 11 all-natural and budget-friendly beauty products you can find at Target.