In a surprising turn this month, the federal government quietly dropped flossing from its Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This raised plenty of eyebrows among people who have been dutifully doing so for ages, as well as professionals in the dental industry. We queried one such professional, Kenneth Magid, DDS, FICD, of Advanced Dentistry of Westchester in Harrison—who has also served as an expert for both ABC and The New York Times—whether flossing is worth it and why the government may not be correct in their new recommendations.
According to Magid, flossing was removed from the guidelines not due to ineffectiveness, but rather due to the fact that initial studies weren’t correctly conducted. “The studies quoted do not state that flossing has been proven to be ineffective, they state that they have not been positively shown to be effective,” explains Magid. “The problem is they are trying to prove a negative—a very difficult proposition.”
Magid advises those considering dropping the waxed stuff to think twice. “Flossing has always been viewed as an important part of dental hygiene,” he reminds.” It is used to disrupt and loosen the bacterial plaque in areas that cannot be reached by toothbrush bristles. It is part of a complete oral hygiene regimen.”
Dr. Magid is not the only one who shares this opinion. The American Academy of Periodontology, The American Dental Association, and The National Institutes of Health all agree that flossing should remain an element of proper oral hygiene. Though Magid adds that there are plenty of other ways individuals can ensure a bright smile. Step one is staying away from sweets. “When you eat sugary foods, the bacteria produce acid for 20 minutes,” he notes. “The more frequently you eat sugary foods, the more this happens. It’s not the quantity of sugar; it is the frequency. And never eat sticky sugary foods like raisins or dried fruits or candy. You might as well glue the sugar to your teeth.”
Magid also recommends that those who are particularly prone to cavities use a topical, prescription-level fluoride treatment and that they also remember to floss, brush, and rinse before bed. “If patients still get some decay after these steps, there are other things we can add to arrest the decay,” says Magid. “You have to remember that if you get cavities, that it is a chronic, incurable, contagious, disease. We can arrest it, but we can’t cure it.”