As dental healthcare professionals, it is imperative that we are able to adequately interpret the scientific literature in a manner that allows our patients to understand and implement the best practices for their oral health. The confusion associated with the changes in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and its reporting in the lay media caused many unsubstantiated conclusions that were not supported by current research.15,16 While the “Flossgate” controversy resulted in some splashy headlines and sensational news segments, the underlying science is less titillating. We currently lack the randomized, longitudinal studies necessary to make definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of flossing as a preventative measure for dental caries and periodontitis.1 There are, however, data to suggest that plaque removal through toothbrushing and interdental cleaning improves oral health outcomes.

Caries and periodontal disease are prevalent, serious diseases that represent a huge burden to the health and well-being of the population as well as a cost burden on society. While professional dental prophylaxis has been shown to improve plaque levels and gingivitis in the short-term, these improvements cannot be maintained without subsequent optimization of home care by the patients themselves.

Clinical Recommendations:

  • Both dental caries and periodontal disease are largely preventable diseases. Proper evaluation and diagnosis of patients as well as motivation to perform adequate oral hygiene and limit sugar intake is critical to their prevention and management.
  • A regular, patient-centered, risk-assessment and oral health and hygiene recommendations should be designed for individual patients.
  • Individualized oral hygiene practices that optimize plaque removal and reduction in signs of gingival inflammation should be employed and reinforced by dental professionals.
  • Oral hygiene education should utilize psychological interventions that tailor approaches to patients’ needs and desires.