Flossing has been under fire recently. The long-recommended method of tooth cleaning was recently dropped from some governmental guidelines because of a lack of supporting evidence. And, it seems, that might be right.
A new study that looked at all the research on cleaning between your teeth showed that flossing may actually not be best way to clean between your teeth. In fact, it’s one of the worst. That means that if you’re having trouble with gum disease, it may be best to switch to another type of cleaner to make sure you can maintain your oral health.
A Comparison of Dozens of Studies
Researchers wanted to determine the best approach for cleaning between teeth. The standard they used was reduction in gum disease, which included several measurements, such as inflammation, bleeding, plaque, and depth of spaces around the teeth (which can be enlarged by infection). They then identified 22 studies that looked at 10 different approaches to cleaning between teeth. These were:
- No cleaning between teeth (just toothbrush)
- No cleaning between teeth (just a powered toothbrush)
- Toothpick with detailed instructions on use
- Powered floss
- Water jet cleaners
- Interdental brushes
- Gum massagers
- Water jet with powered toothbrush
Comparing the different approaches, they found that interdental brushes did the best job of reducing inflammation, followed by water jet. They concluded there was about a 65% chance that interdental brushes were the best approach to cleaning between teeth, with a 27% chance that water jet was best. However, almost all approaches to cleaning between teeth reduced inflammation compared to the controls. Only the toothpick didn’t provide any reduction in inflammation.
There is one caveat to this study: although it was posted and indexed, it was not currently available from the publisher. It’s possible the article has been pulled for further review, although the publisher hasn’t issued a formal retraction. We relied on information from the author and from others who had read the article. The information is consistent with other studies we have read, and believe the overall conclusions to be reliable.
Gum Disease Is Serious: Pick the Right Tool for Prevention
Our risk of gum disease increases as we get older. And, unfortunately, gum disease comes with many serious risks that afflict seniors, such as heart disease, dementia, diabetes, tooth loss, and cancer. Effective cleaning between teeth helps us reduce our risks of these conditions. It’s important that you find a tool that you can use effectively to protect your oral health.
And, of course, regular professional cleanings are vital to preventing gum disease.