To floss or not to floss…

The Associated Press (AP) was established in 1846. AP was the first to break the news of the attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. AP is a non profit collaborative that is co-owned by 1,400 newspapers across these United States. Through it’s collaborators, AP news items reach half of the world every day! That being said, AP has a critical responsibility to report the news accurately and without bias. Unfortunately, AP published an article questioning the value of flossing which could have significant negative effects. Numerous studies have shown that those with lower socioeconomic status (SES) suffer worse health. Moreover, research confirms that those with lower SES have the lowest health literacy. What this means is that the most vulnerable populations are most likely to read too much into the nonsense published by AP about flossing.Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 2.31.50 PM.pngSource:

Basically, what AP is saying is not wrong – there is “weak evidence.” However, the article is written in a way that could be interpreted that there is existing, high quality research that shows the effectiveness of flossing is limited or weak. AP has chosen an alarming headline of “Medical benefits of dental floss unproven.” However, a more appropriate heading could be “Research into the benefits of flossing is not high quality.”floss-is-boss-300x246.jpgSource:

The weakness is not in the commonsense health activity of flossing…the weakness is in the research. Consider the challenges of studying flossing independent of other factors. Firstly, how do you isolate flossing from all other methods of plaque reduction -even chewing fibrous foods reduces plaque? Some individuals have continuously spaced teeth which allows toothbrush bristles to caress the in-between surfaces and do the job of flossing. Next, someone who doesn’t floss but has a non-cariogenic diet (low sugar, infrequent snacking) is at significantly less risk of decay. There is a multitude of variables that I won’t bother mentioning here. However, the point of this brief blog is simple – AP has been irresponsible in the pursuit of gaining readers – they have allowed misinterpretation to occur to the naïve. Unfortunately, they have paid no regard to the critical health effects their articles could lead to. As mentioned in a previous blog, over 300 people die in our hospitals every year due to a preventable dental complaint. In fact, 1.4 million people go to our emergency rooms with a basic dental problem every year in America. However, in the absence of plaque, decay cannot grow and periodontal disease cannot thrive. How do you remove plaque? Brushing and flossing. Keep on flossing, my friends.

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