How long do you spend staring in the mirror each day, wriggling dental floss into the gaps between your teeth? Or, admit it, do you just pretend you’re flossing to keep the dentist off your back?
Well, it turns out our ‘good’ flossing habits might be in vain after the US health department removed flossing from its dental recommendations list – and the NHS are set to review their guidelines, which recommend we do it once a day.
It comes after an investigation by journalists in America found there was “unreliable” evidence that daily flossing prevents gum disease or stops cavities forming.
Current advice on the NHS Choices website says: “Dental floss helps to prevent gum disease by getting rid of pieces of food and plaque from between your teeth.”
But it also points out flossing incorrectly can actually “damage your gums”.
So should we stop buying floss?
The dental expert says: ‘Floss is of little value’
Professor Damien Walmsley, the British Dental Association’s scientific adviser, says we should stick to the basics.
“The best way to reduce your risk of tooth decay and gum disease is to brush teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, see the dentist regularly, cut back on sugar and limit the occasional sweet treat to meal times only,” he says.
But for cleaning in between the teeth (aka interdental cleaning), he recommends interdental brushes over floss for most gaps.
“Small interdental brushes are preferable for cleaning the area in between the teeth, where there is space to do so. 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 says: ‘Ask your dentist how to floss’
Dr Glaucia Minei, a dentist with Smilepod for five, years says: “Cleaning between your teeth is very important to maintain the overall health of your gums and mouth.”
But, she says the technique used to floss is equally important to what you use to floss with.
“Most clients have not been shown how to floss. I strongly recommend that everyone asks their dentist how to floss. At Smilepod we offer a demonstration to every client. The frequency of flossing will depend on several factors and will vary. This is why you should consult your dentist.”
The industry insider says: ‘Keep interdental cleaning’
Elaine Tilling, TePe’s head of Clinical Education, urges everyone to “Keep Calm and Carry on Interdental Cleaning” following the news from the States.
“This forms part of an effective daily oral care routine, which should start with brushing twice daily for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste and needs to include a method of interdental cleaning that suits the individual. Your dentist or dental hygienist will be able to assess what is effective for you.
“Recent reviews of the evidence for the long-term effectiveness of dental floss have shown that it is not as effective as interdental brushes for the removal of plaque and reduction in inflammation. Therefore the advice is to use an interdental brush if the space between the teeth is big enough for it to fit comfortably.”
TePe say tooth brushing alone leaves up to 40% of the tooth surface untouched.
Tilling adds: “TePe interdental brushes provide a simple and effective method of cleaning the area of the teeth that a toothbrush cannot reach. Keeping the spaces between your teeth free of plaque and trapped food simply makes sense.”
TePe brushes are available for £3 - £3.50 at Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Boots, Superdrug and other major retailers and pharmacies nationwide.
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