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Government, ADA recognize importance of flossing

August 02, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

Cleaning between teeth with floss and the use of other tools such as interdental brushes is an important oral hygiene practice and, along with professional cleanings and tooth brushing, has been shown to disrupt and remove plaque, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement in August.

The statement came in response to an ADA News inquiry about why flossing was not included in federal dietary guidelines released in 2015, when the practice had been included in past guidelines. The Associated Press noted the omission in an August news story that questioned the benefits of using dental floss.

When ADA News asked the governmental agency why the 2015 guidelines did not mention flossing, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sent a statement that called flossing "an important oral hygiene practice" and said that the guidelines' lack of mentioning it did not imply otherwise. Although dental floss — along with brushing teeth and using fluoridated water — was mentioned in past editions of the guidelines (in both 2005 and 2010), the statement said "it was most likely identified as a supporting recommendation along with brushing teeth, with the primary emphasis being on the nutrition-based recommendation to reduce added sugars."

Indeed, brushing and flossing have never been an integral part of the dietary guidelines, which primarily provide evidence-based food and beverage recommendations for Americans.
 
The Health and Human Services statement said, "since neither the 2010 nor 2015 Advisory Committees [for the guidelines] reviewed evidence on brushing and flossing teeth, the authors of the current edition decided not to carry forward the information on brushing and flossing included in past editions of the guidelines," the statement said. "By doing so, they were not implying that this is not an important oral hygiene practice."

The Association also released a statement in response the news story, reiterating its recommendations to maintain oral health, which include "brushing for two minutes, twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, cleaning between teeth once a day with an interdental cleaner and regular dental visits advised by your dentist." The ADA also stated that interdental cleaners, including floss, "are an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums."

ADA members can direct patients with questions to the Association's consumer friendly website, MouthHealthy.org, for more information about flossing.