Does Flossing Really Prevent Cavities?

I sat in a large conference room as the speaker shared that flossing is not very effective in preventing caries. Immediately, there was a tangible feeling of agitation in the air. Who does this lady think she is?  How could someone, let alone a well-known dental hygienist, say such a thing?  The speaker later shared that she has had hygienists even leave her courses over this.

Don’t we drill in our patients head brush, floss, repeat? I certainly have been guilty of being a ‘floss boss’ and telling my patients to “clean-in-between” to prevent decay.   

But, here is the thing, we say a lot of stuff in dentistry out of tradition; or because it kind of makes sense in our minds and we may not even have any research to back up. 

There was a good-sized systematic review (click here) done that showed a very weak correlation between flossing and a decrease in decay. (However, the study did show that flossing decreases gum disease). 

So how has this news changed the way I educate my patients?  If a patient has a lot of decay, and relatively healthy gingiva, I skip the floss lecture and go straight into strengthening the patient’s teeth with different products such as fluoride and eliminating known risk factors such as frequent consumption of energy drinks. 

Hygiene Edge Challenge:  Back your oral hygiene education (OHE) up with research!!