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How to Overcome This Year’s Flossing Controversy

Flossing has always been important to maintaining good oral health. And all dental professionals know that flossing prevents cavities, gum disease and other oral issues. Now, however, you might be noticing an influx in patients who have decided to abandon it altogether. Why? Because in August of 2016, a flood of news items came out to question the value of flossing.

The Cochrane Library concluded the following in their 2011 report:

There is weak, very unreliable evidence from 10 studies that flossing plus toothbrushing may be associated with a small reduction in plaque at 1 and 3 months. No studies reported the effectiveness of flossing plus toothbrushing for preventing dental caries.

In addition, a review conducted last year stated that “the majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal.” Even the Federal Government removed its flossing recommendation from its latest dietary guidelines.

It’s logical for your patients to question the value of flossing. They will ask why they have to when evidence suggests otherwise. Inform your patients that yes, they have to floss, but remember that patient education is the key. Have a conversation about why flossing is a crucial step in prevention. It is important that you encourage your patients to confide in you and ask questions. Also, let them know why they should ignore flawed reports. Below are suggestions about how you can do this.

Reveal the flaws

Encourage your patients to come to you when these kinds of controversies come up and help them to see the flaws. The reports provided no new findings to support the claims that flossing is unnecessary. According to CDA’s article “Flossing: Yes or No?” the news items even neglected to explain multiple risk factors for developing tooth decay and gum diseases, and that these diseases can take a long time to develop. Help your patients understand that “these stories could jeopardize the their oral health.”

Provide authority as backup

The Canadian Dental Association (CDA), American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM), American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), and the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA) all support flossing as a step to maintaining good oral health.

Explain the benefits of flossing

Conduct a conversation with your patients about the benefits of flossing and even the proper way to floss. In some cases, patients are just trying to find a reason not to floss, either because the process is too time consuming or too difficult. Take these patients into account and provide them with a number of ways to make the process of flossing easier. Let them know that it only takes a couple minutes out of their day but will make a profound difference to their oral health. I told my dentist about how difficult it was for me to maneuver the floss around my back teeth and he suggested a floss handle. Now I floss every day and it takes even less time. I am no longer struggling with winding floss around my fingers. Tell your patients about this time saver; they will thank you.

It is always important to be open and honest with your patients about all aspects of their oral health. The more trust they have in you, the less trust they will have in flawed reports that might compromise their oral health.  

Are you interested in more articles about the support behind the importance of flossing? Please feel free to check out the links below and don’t hesitate to leave any comments or suggestions you may have.


  1. http://www.oralhealthgroup.com/news/flossing-may-not-key-good-oral-health-1003922892/
  2. http://oasisdiscussions.ca/2016/08/26/floss/
  3. http://www.dentistrytoday.com/news/industrynews/item/1166-dentistry-s-defense-of-flossing-continues?highlight=WyJmbG9zc2luZyIsImZsb3NzaW5nJ3MiXQ==
  4. http://www.dentistrytoday.com/news/todays-dental-news/item/1359-how-to-convince-your-patients-that-flossing-is-important?highlight=WyJmbG9zc2luZyIsImZsb3NzaW5nJ3MiXQ==
  5. http://www.dentaltown.com/Dentaltown/Blogs.aspx?action=VIEWPOST&b=322&bp=1985&st=flossing
  6. http://www.cochrane.org/CD008829/ORAL_flossing-to-reduce-gum-disease-and-tooth-decay