Do you really need to floss? Find out what the experts recommend

By Steve / November 9th, 2016

You’ve maybe heard a bit more than you usually would about flossing in the media this week and I just wanted to write a little something from the point of view of a dental professional to clear up any confusion. To make a proper decision on something, you need all the information about it and a snappy, sensationalist newspaper headline is often not the best way to get that.

The controversy stems from an article published by the American Dental Association that advises flossing is not useful and does not actually have any health benefits. (You’ll find a link here:

However, I wanted to warn you that most of the information used by the media has been taken out of context. The article is, in fact, recommending the use of interdental brushes (like Tepes brushes) instead of floss for patients who have gum disease. This is because the gaps between teeth that have been affected by gum disease tend to be a lot larger. You’ve probably heard me tell you that “the bigger the interdental brush the better!” (favourite party line of mine) because it cleans more effectively. So in a lot of cases floss simply isn’t enough. However, if you have tight gaps between your teeth then it definitely still has a place in your daily routine for preventing gum disease. In short – if you have established gum disease and pocketing then an interdental brush is the way forward.

After the controversy, the president of the ADA released a statement to clear up some confusion:

“To maintain good oral health, the American Dental Association recommends brushing for two minutes, twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, cleaning between teeth once a day with an interdental cleaner and regular dental visits advised by your dentist. Interdental cleaners, including floss, “are an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums.”

Evidence from The British Society of Periodontology (BSP) has always supported the use of floss where you can’t fit interdental brushes in the gaps and that daily interdental cleaning will prevent the onset of gum disease. You can read their press release about the topic here:–flossing-198.pdf

As dental professionals, it’s very disheartening to read irresponsible articles in the media (let’s face it, selling the virtues of daily flossing is hard enough!). We would only ever give you advice to help, educate and benefit yourself and your health. For me personally, the improvement is very clear in patient’s oral hygiene and bleeding gums when they add something into their routine to clean between their teeth – I see it every day. I’m sure you see it yourself when you clean in between your teeth – the gunk and plaque that comes out when you thought you’d done a great job brushing.

Fair enough this all takes a bit of time and commitment but the advice from us will always be the same. I wouldn’t be expecting your hygienist to let you off the hook with cleaning between your teeth anytime soon. Sorry!

This article was created by Darryl Whitton, Hygienist & Therapist at Cherrybank Perth

Last updated May 2nd, 2018