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A String around Your Finger: Do We Really Need to Floss?

Course Number: 550

Is Flossing Necessary?

Oral hygiene recommendations have long included interdental cleaning and flossing as the most commonly employed form of interdental oral hygiene. However, recent guideline changes and further investigation of the literature have created confusion over the utility of flossing—and in fact all forms of interdental cleaning—amongst dental healthcare professionals and the public alike. It is often cited that individuals who floss live, on average, 6.4 years longer than those who do not.48 What is not totally clear from the current data is whether individuals who floss also engage in other healthy habits or if flossing alone can convey such a benefit by reducing risks of periodontitis, tooth decay, and tooth loss. It has been established that in older individuals oral hygiene habits were correlated with longevity.49 Toothbrushing at night before bed, using dental floss every day, and visiting the dentist were significant contributing factors for longevity among adults 65 years of age and older, while never flossing increased risk of death by 30%.49 Given these findings, fully evaluating the current scientific literature regarding flossing and the prevention and/or decreased disease progression of oral diseases is warranted.