Should I bother to floss?

Facebook is fun. However it often can lead to some questionable advice being bandied about. For example, recently there have been several news feeds cluttering the airwaves propagating the claim that flossing is a waste of time. We saw people share this news freely, but very few bothered to dig beneath the headlines of this “fake news” to really get to the bottom of the article’s validity. Where was the science to support this claim?

The article was based on a report released by the associated press. The article investigated two previous reviews on the topic which essentially compared using a toothbrush alone VS using a toothbrush with dental flossing. It went on to posit that evidence for the efficacy of flossing was “weak” and “unreliable” and essentially claimed that the argument FOR flossing was a biased one.

The CDA (The Canadian Dental Association) of which I am a member, decided it was time to take a stand. We are fortunate to have an organization like the CDA to help present the public with the facts. The CDA went on record very shortly after that associated press article went viral to essentially counter the claim and put the public service announcement out there that in our collective professional opinion, we as dental professionals still very much advocate and believe in the use of flossing. To a degree the damage had already been done, many people were still touting this viral news flash as proof and permission to not floss.

So the CDA went on damage control and consulted authorities on the subject about how to help coach dental professionals on how to answer people newly armed with this so called evidence that flossing was really of no value.

Should you floss? Yes or No?
When a patient comes in to our Toronto Ortho office, and references these news articles littering facebook, here’s what we tell them.

  • The Associated Press article that contributed to this on going debate didn’t actually list any new clinical findings to support the claims that were previously cited in the The Cochrane review of 2011 . In fact that was the last sourced article on the subject of the efficacy of flossing.
  • The news that followed, and the constant stream of repetitive memes on the subject failed to touch on the many risks for developing tooth decay or gum disease.
  • Leaving out those important pieces of information and taking things out of context effectively mislead the public. It seems to have been championed mostly by people who are already looking for an excuse NOT to floss. In our opinion though, it’s an ill informed position and actually places the public at greater risk for tooth decay.

Flossing is important! It directly addresses one of the leading causes of tooth decay which is plaque build up.
Plaque is the white filmy material you see being scraped off your teeth when you do in fact floss.


We know that plaque leads to tooth decay if not addressed in regular hygiene appointments. Even when you are getting braces, you should still be seeing your family dentist for regular hygiene appointments.
Plaque doesn’t just go away on it’s own. There needs to be some intervention, where your teeth are professionally cleaned, and of course flossing at home!   If you don’t have braces but need a refresher on how to floss, see this page at the CDA on flossing.

While there is still debate on whether flossing alone will combat tooth decay (as suggested by the article of the AP) there is PLENTY of proof that plaque leads to tooth decay. So it stands to reason that the removal of plaque will reduce the risk of tooth decay. It’s just common sense. Flossing helps reduce the risk.

If you aren’t already doing so, you should be flossing daily, and even more important be sure to be seen by your dentist and dental hygienist regularly. As with all things, if you catch problems early, there is a much better chance of reversing the damaging effects and equally important, saving costly visits to the dentist.