Is Flossing Really Necessary?

When the latest dietary guidelines for Americans was released by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services and did not include flossing, many started to wonder if flossing was even necessary.

Earlier this month, The Associated Press reported that “officials had never researched the effectiveness of regular flossing, as required, before cajoling Americans to do it”, since all the research “fell short” of typical standards because of technicalities in the methods.

Naturally, those who never liked flossing in the first place called it a reason to celebrate and continue with the non-flossing. But, should flossing really be abandoned?


While last year, Dr. Edmond R. Hewlett, a professor of restorative dentistry at the University of California, Los Angeles, stated, “We’re confident that disturbing the bacteria in plaque with brushing and flossing is, indeed, beneficial” – some people feel they cannot get onboard since there are reviews finding only “unreliable” evidence that flossing helps with plaque. 

The respected Cochrane review showed that some evidence exists that flossing decreases bloody gums and inflammation known as gingivitis. That found that regular brushers and flossers had less gum bleeding than people who only brushed, although the authors cautioned that the quality of the evidence was “very low.”

A review of six trials found that when professionals flossed the teeth of children on school days for almost two years, they saw a 40 percent reduction in the risk of cavities.

So maybe perfect flossing is effective. Maybe the evidence that flossing reduces tooth decay or gum disease does not hold up because we are all such poor flossers.

Although recent news reports have questioned the benefits of cleaning between your teeth, using an interdental cleaner (like floss) is an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also reaffirmed flossing as “an important oral hygiene practice” in an August 2016 statement.

The American Dental Association recommends cleaning between your teeth once a day. This is important because plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing can eventually harden into calculus or tartar. Flossing may also help prevent gum disease and cavities.

Plaque is a colorless, sticky coating caused by bacteria, constantly forming on your teeth, and must be removed daily by brushing and flossing. Also, regular routine teeth cleaning by your dentist is necessary to remove plaque that brushing and flossing will miss.

If not properly removed, plaque will harden into tartar – which can only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist

  • Brush your teeth daily, at least twice a day and after meals
  • Floss daily to remove plaque from areas that your toothbrush cannot reach – under your gum line and between your teeth
  • Limit your consumption of starchy or sugary foods – they feed bacteria, causing larger amounts of plaque
  • Schedule regular visits with your dentist for dental exams and professional cleanings, optimally twice a year

At Smiles By Stevens our belief is that prevention is the best way to take care of our health, and we invite and encourage you to take proper care of your teeth and gums.

Whether you’re in need of a routine teeth cleaning or a more advanced dental treatment – rely on Dr. Shea Stevens, recently named one of PA’s top 20 dentists, and our highly experienced and skilled staff to provide you with a solution in our cutting-edge dental office in Lancaster, PA.

Talk to your dentist about what types of dental care products will be most effective for you. Take steps for your oral health today – contact Smiles By Stevens general dentistry in Lancaster PA, and find out for yourself why we continue to be one of the most trusted and eminent dental offices in the area.