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Does flossing your teeth really make a difference?

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Although there is little evidence either way it doesn't mean we should stop flossing our teeth.

Asked by: Ian Styles, London

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For years, dentists have told us to floss as well as brush our teeth. And it seems to make sense: less gunk between our teeth should lead to less decay. Yet surprisingly, there’s little evidence it’s true, as it’s never been put to the test in a large clinical trial.

Some small studies have found that flossing helps combat gum disease, but there’s no compelling evidence that it also stops tooth decay. So does that mean it’s pointless? Not at all. First, gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss. And second, just because researchers haven’t done a proper study, it doesn’t mean flossing can’t also prevent tooth decay: the absence of evidence doesn’t mean there’s no effect.

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Authors

Robert is a science writer and visiting professor of science at Aston University.

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