For years dental organizations have been touting the health benefits of flossing, but researchers now say there is no scientific evidence to support the claims.
Following a request from the Associated Press last year, the U.S. departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture failed to provide data that acknowledged the benefits of flossing. The government later removed its flossing recommendation from its dietary guidelines and stated the effectiveness of flossing has never been researched.
AP conducted its own research looking at 25 studies comparing the use of floss with and without brushing and stated the evidence of flossing benefits is "weak, very unreliable" and has "a moderate to large potential for bias."
Fridus Van Der Weijden, a co-author on flossing research, said: "We found very little support for the removal of dental plaque, and we found actually no support that it reduces gingival inflammation."
But the Canadian Dental Association says flossing is essential for removing plaque and bacteria trapped between the teeth and gum lines. "If you don't floss, you are missing more than one-third of your tooth surface," the CDA explains on their website. "Plaque is the main cause of gum disease."
And a 2006 study published in the journal Evidence Based Dentistry found children who received regular professional flossing had a 40 per cent decrease in their risk of developing cavities. Which begs the question, is the way we floss to blame for it's ineffectiveness?
It's a theory Wayne Aldredge, president of the periodontists' group, isn't so quick to dismiss, noting most people floss in a sawing motion back and forth between teeth instead of in a "C" motion down and under the teeth.
While Aldredge and Van Der Weijdan disagree on the benefits of flossing, they do agree that you should remove the build-up that occurs between your teeth either by using other tools like waterpiks, toothpicks or mouth wash.