Chicago Health | Homepage
Dietary guidelines sent the wrong message about flossing

Dietary guidelines sent the wrong message about flossing

The Medicine Cabinet: Ask the Harvard Experts

By Robert Shmerling, M.D.

Q: I recently read that flossing may not be necessary. I have never met a dentist that said I don’t need to do it. What’s your medical opinion?

A: What you read was misleading!

Here’s what was in the news about flossing over the last few months:

The recently released Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020, removed the recommendation found in previous versions that flossing regularly is among the most effective ways to reduce dental caries (cavities).

The reason given was that the guideline authors felt the benefits of flossing had not been adequately proven through high quality scientific research.

These new guidelines are now silent regarding dental health. Other measures, including “reducing the amount of time sugars and starches are in the mouth, drinking fluoridated water, and brushing,” have also been eliminated. Perhaps that makes sense because these are dietary guidelines, not recommendations about how to maintain oral health.

Unfortunately, many news outlets reported these developments as a reason to give up flossing or reported that flossing was no longer necessary. But that’s a misreading of the new guidelines. In fact, there has been no recent research or medical news suggesting that flossing is not an important and effective part of keeping your teeth and gums healthy.

There’s a saying in the research world that “absence of proof isn’t proof of absence.” That is, the absence of ideal evidence that an intervention is beneficial doesn’t prove it’s worthless. So, the fact that the new dietary guidelines removed recommendations about flossing is not a reason to stop flossing.

Like you, I’ve also never met a dentist who suggested flossing wasn’t a good idea. And that’s unlikely to change. When it comes to taking care of your oral health, my suggestion is that you listen to your dentist.

(Robert H. Shmerling, M.D., is Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Clinical Chief of Rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.)

(c) 2016 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Similar Articles

Antibiotics can be an option rather than surgery for simple appendicitis

Antibiotics can be an option rather than surgery for simple appendicitis

The Medicine Cabinet-Ask the Harvard Expert  By Howard LeWine, M.D. Q: A friend recently was diagnosed with

How to improve your cholesterol levels

How to improve your cholesterol levels

By Joyce Hendley If one-third of Americans have unhealthy cholesterol levels, why did the U.S. recently

Five things parents should know about stomachaches

Five things parents should know about stomachaches

By Cleveland Clinic's Children's Health Team How can you tell if it's a regular tummy ache

Quick tips for gluten-free eating

Quick tips for gluten-free eating

By EatingWell Going gluten-free can feel difficult -- especially at first -- but it doesn't have

Young adults need to take prehypertension seriously

Young adults need to take prehypertension seriously

The Medicine Cabinet: Ask the Harvard Expert  By Howard LeWine, M.D. Q: I checked my blood pressure

Articles By Category

Family Health

In The Know

CH Lifestyle

March 2017
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
February 26, 2017 February 27, 2017 February 28, 2017 March 1, 2017 March 2, 2017 March 3, 2017 March 4, 2017
March 5, 2017 March 6, 2017 March 7, 2017 March 8, 2017 March 9, 2017 March 10, 2017 March 11, 2017
March 12, 2017 March 13, 2017 March 14, 2017 March 15, 2017 March 16, 2017 March 17, 2017 March 18, 2017
March 19, 2017 March 20, 2017 March 21, 2017 March 22, 2017 March 23, 2017 March 24, 2017 March 25, 2017
March 26, 2017 March 27, 2017 March 28, 2017 March 29, 2017 March 30, 2017 March 31, 2017 April 1, 2017

Categories

Recent Comments

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE
Cost to give birth 1943 - Page 3 - Defending The Truth Political Forum

Cost to give birth 1943 - Page 3 - Defending The Truth Political Forum

A Hazy Shade of Healthcare: What does tort reform

VIEW ARTICLE

Archives