A Blow to the Waxed-String-Industrial Complex
August 2, 2016 8:14 AM   Subscribe

In a letter to the Associated Press, the US Department of Health and Human Services was unable to provide any evidence that flossing is an effective way to prevent gum disease or cavities. Its Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are required by law to be based on scientific evidence, had removed the section on flossing earlier this year.
posted by Copronymus (168 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wear sunscreen.
posted by little onion at 8:15 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well flossing definitely improves your breath.
posted by Bee'sWing at 8:19 AM on August 2, 2016 [25 favorites]


Nice! Now when my dentist asks me if I can floss more often, I'll have something to say other than my usual "I suppose anything's possible."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:20 AM on August 2, 2016 [36 favorites]


That's a really insensitive post title - it's not just Big Floss that's going to suffer from this, lots of small farmers in Montana are going to feel the pain too.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:21 AM on August 2, 2016 [92 favorites]


How do you study the effects of flossing when 0% of the population does it?
posted by straight at 8:23 AM on August 2, 2016 [61 favorites]


At least it gets rid of residue stuck between your teeth? Especially if you have a lot of dental work?
posted by wittgenstein at 8:24 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I have never in all my life been able to floss. My mouth doesn't open in the right way or my fingers are too big or something. I honestly would rather all my teeth just fell out than floss.

So this is good news!
posted by selfnoise at 8:24 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


HOW MUCH OF MY LIFE IS A LIE
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:24 AM on August 2, 2016 [32 favorites]


That may be assuming people brush their teeth properly - which most people don't. I feel like flossing gets the bits out that is missed after brushing.

My father is a dentist, and I plan on showing him this. I expect a reaction of disgust and then a comment that they are a bunch of idiots (possibly a non-ironic "thanks obama" thrown in for good measure).

I regularly forget to floss, but when I do I use those plastic floss pick thingys since they are way easier to use than the regular kind.
posted by littlesq at 8:29 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


the shill on the floss
posted by sallybrown at 8:29 AM on August 2, 2016 [23 favorites]


Oh man, I have a check-up in two hours. Printing this shit out and posting it on the Dentist's Door.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 8:30 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's a really insensitive post title - it's not just Big Floss that's going to suffer from this, lots of small farmers in Montana are going to feel the pain too.

Well, there is a small demand for Whipping Floss in Helsinki, so a few of the farmers might be able to stay afloat.
posted by pianoblack at 8:30 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm sure it's difficult to prove its efficacy when most of the people who do actually floss are probably doing it wrong.

Also, can we ban the mint-flavored dental floss? The number of times I have been at my boyfriend's place in the morning, groggily brushed/flossed, put my contacts in, and then oh god the burning.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 8:31 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


This thread is surprising me because I've always thought if I admitted on MeFi to never having flossed that I'd be run out of town on a rail. I have found my people.
posted by billiebee at 8:32 AM on August 2, 2016 [24 favorites]


...I floss every day. My teeth are very tightly packed and it's hard to get all the gunk out with brushing alone. I can't even use regular floss, I have to get the plastic tape-style stuff. We were on vacation a while ago and ran out, and the only stuff the local grocery store had was the size and texture of the ropes barges use to tie off to docks, it was terrible. It left little fibers in between my teeth.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:32 AM on August 2, 2016 [41 favorites]


From the article, there seems to be an interesting UK/US difference in reaction to this news. More than one American expert contacted is saying something like "well - we can't show that it does any good (and you're probably doing it wrong)...but you should keep doing it anyway". The Brit is saying "we can't show it does any good - and there is a risk you could cause knock on problems by dislodging some of that dangerous bacteria you've got hidden away or damaging your dental work - so better not go there".

Interestingly, this more or less parallels the trans-Atlantic divide on attitudes to therapy.
posted by rongorongo at 8:33 AM on August 2, 2016 [19 favorites]


I've begun to enjoy flossing if only for the disappointed look on my Dentist's face when they say everything is fine
posted by The Whelk at 8:34 AM on August 2, 2016 [48 favorites]


That's a really insensitive post title - it's not just Big Floss that's going to suffer from this, lots of small farmers in Montana are going to feel the pain too.

They say you can make more money as a butcher. Or selling whippin' posts.
posted by delfin at 8:34 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Was gum disease prevention the only reason ever to floss? I thought it was also to get out the stuff that gets lodged between your teeth before it smells gross and such.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:34 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


[anecdote]

I have very bad gums (50% genetics, 50% no dental healthcare until I was a teenager). I can tell you that flossing makes a HUGE difference in my dental health.

(Not enough to prevent a crapton of damage that will never be reversed, but still. It kept things from getting worse until I had access to surgery. And it's all I can do to keep things as bad as they are from getting worse. Fuck, I hate teeth.)

[/anecdote]
posted by aperturescientist at 8:35 AM on August 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


So this is silly and all, but isn't also kind of a huge scandal? A $2 Billion industry, manufactured on the basis of shoddy science, with the collusion of medical professionals and their industry group... It doesn't seem that flossing is particularly harmful, but this is a pretty huge case of profits determining research focus (or lack thereof) AND research results.
posted by abrightersummerday at 8:36 AM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


BUT I LOVE FLOSSING.

Seriously, my day hasn't properly ended until I'm tucked up on the couch watching TV, next to my horrified husband, contentedly flossing away. Should I ever have children I suspect their mother's nocturnal flossing habits will be a major cause of embarassment.

Please tell me I'm not the only person who keeps their floss in the living room.
posted by nerdfish at 8:37 AM on August 2, 2016 [34 favorites]


This is a tough case of correlation and causation. MY dental health has improved massively since I started flossing, but I also started brushing on a better, more consistent schedule and started using mouthwash along with brushing and flossing, so it's hard to isolate the effects.

Then again, my teeth are also tightly packed, so flossing might have greater benefits for me than the average person.

My suspicion is that the lack of consistent evidence for flossing comes from the fact that the benefits to dental health over and above proper brushing, good genes, and average-to-wide tooth spacing are minimal.

It could be advocated on a case-by-case basis: if you have tight teeth and gum problems, start flossing. If not, don't bother.
posted by deanc at 8:37 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Huh, that's weird. I do find that my gums and overall oral health are infinitely better when I floss regularly. Otherwise I get inflammation, bleeding, the gum disease known as
GIN
GI
VITUS
posted by Existential Dread at 8:39 AM on August 2, 2016 [25 favorites]


I'm tucked up on the couch watching TV, next to my horrified husband, contentedly flossing away

i have no words
posted by billiebee at 8:39 AM on August 2, 2016 [25 favorites]


My Dentist: How often do you floss?

Me: I don't.

My Dentist: What? (horror)

Me: Nope. I don't. Maybe like once every coupla weeks. (look at him with deliberate seriousness) People do not floss.

My Dentist: My patients floss.

Me: No, they don't. They don't floss. Those are lies. I'm sorry.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:41 AM on August 2, 2016 [146 favorites]


I should have thought it was obvious. Glad they've caught up.

Now let's get to work on the milk-industrial complex. No one over the age of two needs that stuff, either.

I've begun to enjoy flossing if only for the disappointed look on my Dentist's face when they say everything is fine

I enjoy the Crest™fallen look on the hygienists face when I tell them I never floss. "1,1,1; 1,1,1; 1,1,1 . . . are you sure you never floss?"

lots of small farmers in Montana are going to feel the pain too.

Well -- they've still got their bees.

They say you can make more money as a butcher.

So don't you waste your time on me.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:42 AM on August 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


gawdDAMN it!

The only healthy habit that I have been consistent with my entire life is worthless?

No matter. In a few days my brain will squash any memory of this article and I'll go back to being a happy, smug flosser.
posted by blairsyprofane at 8:42 AM on August 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


I can't make my hands and mouth work with floss, so I use the little plastic flossers. I'm also super-uncomfortable if I have debris around my teeth and gums so it's less about preventing cavities and more about not being driven nuts by bits of food.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:42 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I have very bad gums (50% genetics, 50% no dental healthcare until I was a teenager). I can tell you that flossing makes a HUGE difference in my dental health.

Seconded, except sub in "no dental healthcare until I was basically 30.

I am definitely not going to stop flossing. For one thing, my mouth is tangibly better off now that I've begun to floss daily. Seriously, you guys, my gums used to hurt A LOT and they don't hurt EVER, anymore. I am sure the regular attention of the dentist also helps, but if I go a week without flossing, things start to get sore and tender again.

For another--maybe you guys have good orthodontia or good genes or whatever, but my tooth spacing is balls. Even the fancy expensive electric toothbrush can't actually get a lot of stuff un-wedged.

And for a final thing, in reading the article it seems like the evidence is thin because the studies are mostly shit. That doesn't mean the benefit doesn't potentially exist, it means it isn't thoroughly proven. If anything it is an argument for more rigorous study, not abandonment of the practice, no?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:43 AM on August 2, 2016 [36 favorites]


Please tell me I'm not the only person who keeps their floss in the living room.

You are not alone.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:43 AM on August 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


Now let's get to work on the milk-industrial complex.

But where will all those gym-bros get their hideous protein shakes?

srsly, milk is a great way to get protein
posted by Existential Dread at 8:44 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


How can this be?
posted by SLC Mom at 8:44 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


"We know there's a possibility that it works, so we feel comfortable telling people to go ahead and do it."

I'm going to start yelling at the plaque in my mouth, because there's a possibility that that works too.
posted by Kabanos at 8:44 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


My Dentist: How often do you floss?

Me: Every night, even if I'm drunk.

...

Me: I mean, not that that's that often or anything. Just, y'know, every night!

...

Me: I mean, I floss every night.

My Dentist: Well, keep it up.
posted by asperity at 8:45 AM on August 2, 2016 [31 favorites]


srsly, milk is a great way to get protein

I'll stick with food, thanks.

posted by Herodios at 8:45 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


$2 billion industry/300 million people/365 days = about 2 cents a day. Pretty trivial compared to many other useless purchases. For example, nutritional supplements are about $30+ billion. And, of course, the truly scandalous $2 billion industry: scented candles.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:47 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


VINDICATED! 😬
posted by Mchelly at 8:47 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm still going to floss. I'm addicted to the sensation during and after.
posted by humanfont at 8:51 AM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


I just came here to say that this is the best thing ever, wrt flossing.
posted by destrius at 8:51 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also: if you like flossing, then you'll LOVE those interdental brushes with the rubbery little bristles. My Dutch dentist recommended them over flossing, and I used them a lot in the Netherlands.

Aaaaand I just found an online store that sells them real cheap in the UK. My husband is about to get a lot more grossed out by my night time dental routine.
posted by nerdfish at 8:57 AM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Please tell me I'm not the only person who keeps their floss in the living room.

Years ago, I knew a couple who had regular movie nights. After the film, there would be some chat, and then one of them would say "it's time to floss; would you like to join us?" If you said no, the would say "then it is time to leave," and we would go to the door, shake hands all around, and depart into the night. One evening, I said "yes." So one of them disappeared and returned with a lacquered tray with a selection of flosses. We all sat and flossed in companionable silence, and then they said "now it is time to go," and so to the door, etc.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:57 AM on August 2, 2016 [150 favorites]


And, of course, the truly scandalous $2 billion industry: scented candles.

Hah. I did a contract job for the A.I. Root Co. years ago. They sell like a million varieties of scented candles; yet by far their biggest market it simple votive candles -- never out of style.

And they're mostly beeswax, so take heart Montana floss ranchers. No need to swish it around anymore, just ship it off to Medina, Ohio.

And leave the sweet stuff for somebody else.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:58 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Plus 1 for water flossers. I have the counter-top version used nightly (a splash of mouthwash with the water, while hard on the pump is great for the breath) and a rechargeable one for travel which actually lives in the shower between trips and is used as part of the morning routine along with a tongue scraper. At least part of the inside of my head is clean!
posted by Standeck at 8:59 AM on August 2, 2016


My upper left wisdom tooth has a space right in front of it that is exactly the perfect size for trapping food. Not too wide, not too narrow. That's the most important one to floss, for me, or else stuff gets stuck there, and my breath smells terrible. Now, a lot of you might be wondering, "Okay, what the fuck is the point of that story? Why tell us this, man? Is there a punchline? Why would we be interested in hearing about this?" Well i suppose you could say the same for anything we say
posted by Greg Nog at 9:00 AM on August 2, 2016 [33 favorites]


It would be really great if this were totally confirmed, settled, and undisputed within the next couple of years, so I don't have to try to instill flossing habits in my now-5yo. Because I have no idea how I'm going to do that.
posted by gurple at 9:02 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


My hygienist swears that flossing kept me from needing endodontic work. I believe her because she's awesome, but also because she puts sharp pointy things in my mouth and I don't want to get on her bad side.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 9:03 AM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


If you ever really want to know Why We Floss, smell your floss after digging into a nugget-rich tooth pocket.

You're welcome.
posted by zippy at 9:05 AM on August 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


I just came here to say that [a product] is the best thing ever, wrt flossing.

So panasonic has re-invented the Waterpik, eh?

I think half the couples who got hitched in the USA during the 1980s got a Waterpik as a wedding gift, if not three.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:05 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Floss is still useful for building Rube Goldberg machines, tripwires for deathtraps, and cat's cradles.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:05 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I use a Reach flosser because my fingers just don't fit in my mouth that way, since I started using it my breath is noticeably better, and because it's right next to my toothbrush it was easy to add it to the routine. Brush, floss, mouthwash, seems to work pretty well in that order.
posted by Blackanvil at 9:05 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


"They" say that Waterpik is no replacement for flossing.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:06 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Floss is still useful for building Rube Goldberg machines, tripwires for deathtraps, and cat's cradles.

And for holding bathing suits together in Rio.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:07 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


so I don't have to try to instill flossing habits in my now-5yo. Because I have no idea how I'm going to do that.

*loud guitar noises*

*giant floss container with googly eyes and smiling mouth arrives on a surfboard riding a tidal wave of Scope™*

MR. FLOSS: "Hey kids, do you floss?"
CHILD #1: "No."
CHILD #2: "Never."
CHILD #3: "My dad says that flossing is something big dental tries to force upon unsuspecting consumers in an attempt to increase quarterly profits."

*Mr. Floss pulls giant string from top of his head*
*blue blood begins to pour from his head and from his own smaller mouth*

*children screaming*
*Mr. Floss screaming*

*end of commercial*
posted by Fizz at 9:08 AM on August 2, 2016 [41 favorites]


Brush, floss, mouthwash, seems to work pretty well in that order.

Incorrect. It's floss-then-brush.

Mrs. gurple does brush-then-floss. I know this is just one of those things where whatever you grew up doing seems correct, but brush-then-floss seems so deeply wrong.
posted by gurple at 9:09 AM on August 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


Floss is still useful for building Rube Goldberg machines, tripwires for deathtraps, and cat's cradles.

You might also want to look into floral wire and fishing line.
posted by shponglespore at 9:10 AM on August 2, 2016


cry, puke, chewing gum, sashay
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:11 AM on August 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


ok, I just started flossing after not doing it for... a long time (but brushing well). It made my gums bleed a lot. Now, they don't bleed when I floss. That seems to indicate that flossing has some positive effect.
posted by scose at 9:11 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Brush, floss, mouthwash, seems to work pretty well in that order.

Mom: C'mon kids, put on your shoes and socks, and let's go.
Me: In that order?
 
posted by Herodios at 9:12 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Incorrect. It's floss-then-brush.

Some men just want to watch the world burn.
posted by Fizz at 9:12 AM on August 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


Yeah, rough, calloused gums are in fashion! That's why I used barbed wire sized for model railroads when I floss.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:13 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm going to start flossing - right after I finish reading Ulysses.
posted by piyushnz at 9:15 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I use Rancid Polecat No. 2. It keeps my skin nice and scaly.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:15 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Floss then brush! That way the fluoride in your toothpaste can really go to town on your crevices.
posted by nerdfish at 9:17 AM on August 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


But should I keep seeing my aromatherapist?
posted by oceanjesse at 9:18 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]



MR. FLOSS: "Hey kids, do you floss?"
CHILD #1: "No."
CHILD #2: "Never."
CHILD #3: "My dad says that flossing is something big dental tries to force upon unsuspecting consumers in an attempt to increase quarterly profits."

*Mr. Floss pulls giant string from top of his head*
*blue blood begins to pour from his head and from his own smaller mouth*

*children screaming*
*Mr. Floss screaming*

*end of commercial*


soundtrack: insert record scratch after Child #3 finishes speaking. 5 seconds of silence as the children and Mr. Floss stare at each other, followed by slow build of ominous distorted static thumping with the faint sounds of a cat screaming, fingernails on chalkboard, and dental drills as Mr. Floss begins the self-mutilation ritual
posted by Existential Dread at 9:20 AM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


But should I keep seeing my aromatherapist?

The answer to that important question should be along in a sensational link-bait article making the rounds of social media any day now.
posted by aught at 9:21 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, I just gave a gold-plated (or gold-filled? The cheap one) POH Anniversary Edition floss container to my dude for his birthday. We're a flossing family.

I'm pretty sure that flossing has prevented cavities for me. And he's the one who got me flossing. He earned that gold-plated floss.
posted by amtho at 9:21 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


From Edward Abbey: A Life, by James Cahalan:

After an attack in Loeffler's living room, Abbey was rushed to the hospital. ... it looked like he had pancreatic cancer and would have only a few months to live. He immediately turned to Loeffler and quipped, "At least I don't have to floss anymore.”
posted by Killick at 9:25 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


nerdfish: "Please tell me I'm not the only person who keeps their floss in the living room."

I keep those little picks in my pocket and floss whenever I fucking want to.
posted by chavenet at 9:26 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I keep those little picks in my pocket and floss whenever I fucking want to.

My friends and family thought it was gross when I started doing this but now every single time at least one person wants one.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:28 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I started singing Dinah-Moe Humm in the shower this morning so some Zappa was already first on the playlist this morning. So this thread is a nice bit of synchronicity. I wonder what else the Universe is trying to tell me? Besides floss more of course, because fuck that.
posted by friendlyjuan at 9:30 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thank God for Metafilter. Like that thread where I learned that hating Forrest Gump is a thing, here I am discovering that people's gums are different. I don't know what I'd do without you guys.
posted by Melismata at 9:32 AM on August 2, 2016


posted by gurple Incorrect. It's floss-then-brush.

For some people, it's buy a Muni ticket, get on crowded subway, sit next to me, begin flossing.

Seriously lady what is wrong with you we're trying to have a civilization here
posted by mattdidthat at 9:32 AM on August 2, 2016 [40 favorites]


Chiming in with my own anecdote. I didn't floss regularly, and as I went through my 20s, my gums grew sore. I brushed and rinsed with Listerine nightly, but as time went on they bled more and more, to the point where I, perish the thought, strongly considered visiting a dentist. Hoping to stave that off, I made it a habit to floss nightly, eventually switching to Plackers, those little plastic flosser things, which helped with my molars. My gums, while a horror show at first, have fully recovered, and my teeth even look cleaner for it.

Earlier this year, I went to the dentist for the first time in eleven years, preparing for the worst. They cleaned a bunch of plaque off my teeth, but there were no new cavities, and even my packed-together molars were in top shape. That pretty much solidified my routine. Brush, floss, Listerine, every night.

One other thing - prior to finally capitulating to flossing regularly, I bought an electric toothbrush, and that night realized that I only thought I was cleaning my teeth before. I expressed this to the hygienist, and she still put two regular toothbrushes in the dentist swag bag when I left. See you again in a decade!
posted by Leviathant at 9:33 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


posted by gurple Incorrect. It's floss-then-brush.

For some people, it's buy a Muni ticket, get on crowded subway, sit next to me, begin flossing.

Seriously lady what is wrong with you we're trying to have a civilization here
posted by mattdidthat at 12:32 PM on August 2 [2 favorites +] [!]


Season 10 of Seinfeld is shaping up quite nicely I see.
posted by Fizz at 9:38 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Count dentist Damien Walmsley, scientific adviser to the British Dental Association, among the skeptics. "It's important to tell people to do the basics. Flossing is not part of the basics."

I strained my side-eye reading that sentence.
posted by chavenet at 9:40 AM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


I used to hate flossing, but then I discovered woven dental floss (aka "gentle gum care"), and it was great!

But now, you can't find it anymore. The only woven floss available is mint flavored with "hint of cinnamon."

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? A freaking hint of cinnamon? If I wanted a hint of cinnamon, I would stand at the other end of the shopping mall from the Cinnabon place.

I just want PLAIN WOVEN FLOSS! Is that so hard, Montana?
posted by jasper411 at 9:43 AM on August 2, 2016 [12 favorites]


The periodontist owns my ass at this point. I'll stop flossing when he says to.
posted by thelonius at 9:48 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also: if you like flossing, then you'll LOVE those interdental brushes with the rubbery little bristles. My Dutch dentist recommended them over flossing, and I used them a lot in the Netherlands.

Dentists around here don't really care if you floss, but they all started recommending the tiny brushes about five years ago.

I'm a convert by now, I feel kind of groddy if I don't use one after brushing. Flossing feels pointless in comparison.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:49 AM on August 2, 2016


I don't know if my teeth are any healthier since I started flossing regularly, but I'll echo the sentiment that my gums are in demonstrably better shape.

The one problem I have is that my teeth absolutely shred floss. I have to start with a very long piece, because it will inevitably break two or three times during the course of flossing. Can anyone recommend an exceptionally strong brand of floss, and definitely not the kind that shreds into extremely fine threads?
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:53 AM on August 2, 2016


it's not just Big Floss that's going to suffer from this, lots of small farmers in Montana are going to feel the pain too.

The war on halitosis is going to cause an increase in bromidrosis as former dental floss ranchers are unable to purchase new python boots & their feet swell up from too long in the floss fields, trying to hang on by a thread.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:53 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Floss is still useful for building Rube Goldberg machines, tripwires for deathtraps, and cat's cradles.

The only time I used floss with any regularity was when I was tying tiny wires to the coldheads of cryocoolers. It was a lot easier to use than fishing line, but did not seem to have any effect on my dental health.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:55 AM on August 2, 2016


little plastic flossers

I'm always seeing those abandoned on the sidewalk and subway platforms. That's not only polluting, it's just nasty.
posted by jonmc at 9:56 AM on August 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


OMG how can any of you use that weird fibrous floss? I have had to have quasi dental surgery to remove that stuff from between my teeth at least 3 times. Waxed floss is the only acceptable type.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:56 AM on August 2, 2016


Without flossing, the morning breath the next day is horrendous.

Brush, floss, dental pick, mouthwash (not always). Anecdata, but since I started doing that I've had several teeth improve their enamel and my gums are much healthier. I have always brushed my teeth, but around when I turned 25 it stopped being enough on its own.
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:57 AM on August 2, 2016


gurple, if you do want to teach your kid flossing the little plastic flossers are good for kids. My kid was 8 or 9 before he could get the hang of the regular kind.

I got into the habit of flossing after I got my braces off, because finally I could, and it seemed to be good for my gums (less bleeding). I wouldn't mind an alternate approach that also gets food chunks out, because judging by the state of our mirror after we've both flossed, we need help.
posted by emjaybee at 9:59 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Eh. I read the article and based on that and my own experiences I'd summarize it as "Thing Which Everyone Knows Obviously Works Should Probably Have A Better Study To Prove It Just To Be Sure". I went to the dentist this morning just before reading this and here's my anecdote:

* every 6 months they say I have gingivitis and my gums bleed during the cleaning, and I feel bad about not flossing more than once in a while.
* this time I have been flossing at least 5 of 7 nights a week and my gums have stopped hurting. The hygienist today said "wow, your teeth are a lot cleaner than usual" and then she and the dentist chatted about what nice teeth I have. At no time did I mention I'd been flossing more. That's the only thing I've added to my normal routine which is to brush before bed (1x/day).

So ... I dunno, I think I can pony up $4 for a 2-pack of giant rolls of mint floss that lasts a couple of months. I mean, it's clear from direct observation (and the crap that comes out when you floss) that flossing works.
posted by freecellwizard at 10:00 AM on August 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


jonmc: "little plastic flossers

I'm always seeing those abandoned on the sidewalk and subway platforms. That's not only polluting, it's just nasty.
"

Nasty would be seeing someone pick one up and use it.
posted by chavenet at 10:03 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Nasty would be seeing someone pick one up and use it.

*deep shudder*
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:04 AM on August 2, 2016


So hey, I don't floss. Like maybe twice in my life on my own, and both times it was a bloody mess and my fingers got all cramped. I get flossed when I go see my dentist every... few years or so. But she says whatever I'm doing must be working because I haven't had any issues in over a decade! The last one was a cavity and that was probably from my high mountain-dew intake that started in college.

I also have been using this line of toothbrush for most of my adult life. Maybe it helps?
posted by numaner at 10:17 AM on August 2, 2016


"When pressed, Matthew J. Messina, a practicing dentist and spokesman for the dental association, acknowledged weak evidence, but he blamed research participants who didn't floss correctly."

Just like dentists to blame you for not flossing
posted by gregr at 10:18 AM on August 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


This is so wrong. Because I just started flossing every day a few months ago after years of neglect and started feeling like I was doing the right thing by my teeth and all of that and now they tell me that my neglect was not neglect but actual good practice? WT everliving F?
posted by blucevalo at 10:25 AM on August 2, 2016


I too have never worn thong underwear.

MY SKEPTICISM IS VINDICATED!
posted by srboisvert at 10:30 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Technically, what they are saying is that they don't have good scientific evidence to support the recommendation to floss. Lack of data is not the same as saying flossing is bad for you. They really need to get evidence one way or the other. So! Whether or not you floss, you're correct!
posted by Existential Dread at 10:30 AM on August 2, 2016


Nasty would be seeing someone pick one up and use it.

Said like a true conservative.
posted by TedW at 10:31 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I always tell each new dentist that I can't floss and they don't believe me until they try. First I ask for a pair of those plastic glasses and then they try again and again as each strand of floss snaps in two and smacks me in the face. I had one dentist thread a needle with floss, pass the needle between my teeth at my gum line and try to pull up. *SNAP!* goes the floss.
posted by futz at 10:31 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Put me in the group whose gums improved after I started flossing more. Also in the group who is glad to get all that crud out of my mouth whether or not it accomplishes anything in terms of oral health.
posted by TedW at 10:33 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I always wondered about floss v. brushing, so some time I decided it was time for SCIENCE.

I have shockingly bad teeth, probably from not ever seeing a dentist or flossing till I was in my 20s. I did brush my teeth regularly, and the dentist was shocked at my gums and teeth. I started flossing, and things got much better, no pain or bleeding, and the dentist agreed.

Then I tried floss only, with no brushing. I did that for 6 months and went to the dentist; things were OK but not great. Resumed brushing and things were pretty good. But there was still a steady decline, so last year I was told I needed to add a Water-Pik to my routine. I'm finally not reminded of my teeth all the time!

TL;DR: If you neglect your teeth for a few decades (I now have 5 root-canals!) then flossing + brushing + water-flosser is what you will end up with. (Also, doing SCIENCE on your health is probably not a great idea, and flossing after brushing is wrongity-wrong and Against The Laws of God And Man.)
posted by phliar at 10:36 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I spent several thousand dollars and endured 1.5 weeks of misery to have gum grafts done to save my teeth.

They, whoever they are, will pry my dental floss from my very cold, very dead hands.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 10:37 AM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


My teeth and gums are much happier since I started flossing regularly. My mouth feels great after flossing, too! I used to have a cavity every time I went to the dentist and now I don't! Which is handy when you don't have dental insurance. And have you ever really looked at the bottom teeth of an older person who has never flossed? They're cemented together with hardened goo.

I WILL NEVER STOP FLOSSING.

Also the tape-like floss is a godsend to people like me with jammed in teeth.
posted by Stonkle at 10:39 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]




Damnitall, I mean floss first! Floss then brush! Never brush first, that way lies madness.
posted by phliar at 10:40 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I also have been using this line of toothbrush for most of my adult life. Maybe it helps?

I just started using one (different brand, same idea) a year or so ago, on the advice of a friend who had just gone through an experience like theBigRedKittyPurrs above, and it's made a big difference in my gum health. About half of my teeth are too close together to floss easily, and geez louise does it hurt when torn floss strands get jammed in there!
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:50 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've been a non-flosser most of my life. About a year and a half ago, I got a good talking-to about gum pockets and the likelihood of losing teeth in 20 years if I didn't change my habits. I started with those little disposable brushes, which the dentist recommended as better than not doing anything at all, but since I started right after a scaling, there was no pain, no blood, so I just kept it up and eventually switched over to just floss. (Somehow I think the switch got flipped in my brain from "gross task" to "gross grooming task which is therefore weirdly fascinating"--don't pretend you all don't have that switch.) Not perfectly, but I'd say 2 out of every 3 days. My gums remained visibly not inflamed, not prone to bleeding. At my next appointment, the cleaning took infinitely less time and produced so much less gunk, it was amazing. Also, morning breath/taste in mouth? Practically gone.

I know, anecdata, but since it's pleasant to me to not have my gums sore and prone to bleeding and reducing the time, discomfort, and overall grossness of a cleaning is also a plus in my book, I'll hold on until they decide it's actually harmful. I mean, do we suddenly think plaque is a good thing to have? Because when I floss, it unquestionably clears out a lot of side-tooth plaque that brushing doesn't get.
posted by praemunire at 10:52 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, anecdotally, my visits to the dentist are horror shows if I don't floss between visits, but if I floss every night, my gums have no pockets in them and they don't bleed and the hygenist can totally tell whether or not I've been flossing. So maybe it doesn't help, but then....how do my gums not know that it doesn't?
posted by xingcat at 10:55 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I suspect the science is crap for two reasons:
1) People trying to see whether floss is good for you or not are likely to be funded by companies that make floss and as such have zero reason to actually try to disprove that floss works.
2) The Venn diagram of "people who take good care of their teeth" and "People who floss regularly" probably overlap to such a degree that finding a high enough N to definitively show that flossing is good would be quite hard.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:00 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


If a grinding my teeth on a hank of musty sailor's rope every winter solstice was good enough for my grandpappy, then by gum, it's good enough for me.
posted by duffell at 11:00 AM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


i like the flossystick reach things that go in the toothbrush holder, they are the best. i keep regular floss in the living room/dining room area for food emergencies, and a floss in my bag for restaurant emergencies (although i've never used it because flossing in a public restroom is a bit beyond the pale for me, somewhere between wetly blowing my nose right there at the table and washing my feet in a public restroom sink).

definitely floss before brushing, you want the baking soda peroxide toothpaste to brush away all the flossed out gack as well as stem the bleeding if there's any.

tbh i only do it a couple of times a week, the real difference made to my tooth health was getting an electric toothbrush with an itty bitty head. now my dentist is always faintly disappointed by the good shape of my teeth and gums in general so i let the bridgework get a little plaquey starting a week before my appointment. then he give me another pack of that expensive SuperFloss for free and everyone is happy.

i've lost 2 teeth to shitty genetic gum disease and i'd like to not lose any more, mostly because the actual monetary cost of dental work is fucking obscene and offensive.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:04 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


dephlogisticated: The one problem I have is that my teeth absolutely shred floss. I have to start with a very long piece, because it will inevitably break two or three times during the course of flossing. Can anyone recommend an exceptionally strong brand of floss, and definitely not the kind that shreds into extremely fine threads?

Oral B Essential Floss. My teeth are tightly spaced and excellent at shredding floss. This stuff is the most shred proof I have tried and it's the only kind I use now. Thankfully, it's also what my dentist gives full sized samples of with every visit, so I almost never have to buy any!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:06 AM on August 2, 2016


The periodontist owns my ass at this point.

And Chuck Tingle gets a new story idea....
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:06 AM on August 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


Patti Smith recommends flossing. That's good enough for me.
posted by larrybob at 11:06 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also, I am tickled every time I note that my Oral B Essential Floss is made in Ireland. I think it's the only product I use on a regular basis that is made in Ireland.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:07 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I love to floss! It gives me the same satisfied feeling that I get from q-tipping my ears - which I also do every day, fight me.

I had basically no dental care as a kid, and had ton of dental work done in my early and mid-20s. Lots of cavities between my teeth. Also my gums were receding, and I was able to totally reverse it.

Now that I'm a regular flosser, I notice that if I skip even a single day (while still using my Sonicare twice a day), the next time I floss, it releases a mildly unpleasant odor. Skip two days and the smell between my teeth is absolute ass. I don't know how anyone can stand it.
posted by peep at 11:07 AM on August 2, 2016


If I wanna floss I got my own.
posted by maryr at 11:13 AM on August 2, 2016


Perhaps Metafilter should not be considered a valid scientific study, but reading this thread has convinced me beyond doubt that flossing works and I should do it more regularly!
posted by brambleboy at 11:15 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


2) The Venn diagram of "people who take good care of their teeth" and "People who floss regularly" probably overlap to such a degree that finding a high enough N to definitively show that flossing is good would be quite hard.

Taking good care of your teeth does not necessarily prevent needing dental work. Some people just have rotten teeth. Bodies, man. They vary.
posted by maryr at 11:15 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yay, pot is completely harmless!
posted by b1tr0t at 11:26 AM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


This thread did make me realize my kid's morning breath has been pretty bad lately, wonder if he's not flossing.

And also that there might be mysterious products out there that work as well as flossing. What are these little brushy things ya'll are talking about that you use instead? Interdental brushes?

It does have the appeal of not creating so much trash as floss. Hm.
posted by emjaybee at 11:45 AM on August 2, 2016


Does this mean I shouldn't pick the food out from between my teeth with the corner of the matchbook cover?
posted by AugustWest at 11:55 AM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Does this mean I shouldn't pick the food out from between my teeth with the corner of the matchbook cover?

This advice won't come out until 2016, so you should be fine in the 1940s.
posted by Etrigan at 11:58 AM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Depends on whether you then use one of the matches to light a cigarette.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:59 AM on August 2, 2016


Damn, Etrigan beat me to the joke.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:59 AM on August 2, 2016


This is from the '30s, but AugustWest's comment immediately brought Edward G. Robinson to mind.
posted by duffell at 12:02 PM on August 2, 2016


For those of you flossing not in the bathroom: Do you just accept that pieces of plaque and food are distributed unevenly amongst all your tapestries and furnishings?
posted by avalonian at 12:04 PM on August 2, 2016 [14 favorites]


Also, if you don't floss and your partner does, they know. If they say they don't notice, they either love you or are secret lizard people and you're their human beard.
posted by avalonian at 12:06 PM on August 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


emjaybee, I used these Gum Softpicks to start, as recommended by my dentist. It looks like most research on their efficacy was sponsored by the company, so I am doubtful that they will turn out to be as effective as floss, but they genuinely did help me ease into the flossing concept after years of hating it for the usual reasons, and the claim that they are better than not doing anything (assuming that there is some value to removing plaque and debris from between your teeth) is plausible to me.
posted by praemunire at 12:12 PM on August 2, 2016


i have just completed a study of myself. i found a strong correlation between the number of comments i read about flossing and my subjective perception of lunch bits between my teeth. i have concluded that reading metafilter comments creates food through an unknown electromechanical process. please notify the UN
posted by radicalawyer at 12:15 PM on August 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


My sequence: floss, brush with Sensodyne Repair and Protect, then a final 2 minute swish with a dab of 5% fluoride toothpaste. Results: I haven't had a cavity for over ten years, my gums are happy, my enamel is in the best shape it's been for decades, and when I get my teeth cleaned, I no longer have to get topical anaesthetic gel applied to the one tooth with a little exposed dentin. The Sensodyne seems to have done a good job of patching up that bit because Canadians get the real deal instead of the fluoride only version you poor Yanks get. (Really, there's even research on this stuff.)
posted by maudlin at 12:30 PM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


A friend very recently posted this wise statement on facebook: "Brushing your teeth and not flossing is like taking a shower and not washing your ass. The stink is in the cracks!"

And so I will continue flossing... and washing my ass.
posted by VioletU at 12:37 PM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


If I do not floss for three days my gums are noticeably messed up.

I do not believe this scientific finding.
posted by bukvich at 12:38 PM on August 2, 2016


And so I will continue flossing... and washing my ass.

Not with the same bit of floss, I hope.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:40 PM on August 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


(Whoops! Make that 1.1% fluoride toothpaste -- 5000 PPM -- plus 5% potassium nitrate. I used this as my main toothpaste for a couple of years with only minimal sensitivity relief, though, and it was the Sensodyne that did the trick as semi-permanent tooth spackle.)
posted by maudlin at 12:41 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


and both times it was a bloody mess

Just for the record that goes away pretty quickly (less than a week for me) when you floss regularly.
posted by aught at 12:42 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


And so I will continue flossing... and washing my ass.

Not with the same bit of floss, I hope.


flass
posted by duffell at 12:51 PM on August 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


It gives me the same satisfied feeling that I get from q-tipping my ears - which I also do every day, fight me.

I won't fight you, but this is really not good! I'm so concerned for your ears now.
posted by naju at 12:58 PM on August 2, 2016


Please tell me I'm not the only person who rinses and spits in the living room.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:20 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


How often do you floss?

It's been a while, why do you ask?
posted by leotrotsky at 1:24 PM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


For the record, as a former non-flosser who's now a regular daily flosser, you all need to listen to me:

FLOSSING IS AWESOME.

You know those red puffy gums you have that bleed? When you floss, they turn pale pink, and they stop bleeding! Also, if you keep flossing, flossing gets a lot easier, particularly if you keep it up immediately after going to the dentist, because those gaps between your teeth stay open, and don't get clogged up with plaque.

Daily flossing brings me a deep sense of calm and reassurance equaled only by the knowledge that I, as a husband and father, have a paid-up life insurance policy.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:29 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have had a "total oral rehabilitation," which is what they call it when they cap all of your original teeth in order to correct your bite. I live in one of the richest suburbs in my state and my dentist has never seen another example of this kind of work. I could not have afforded it in the US either, but I had it done in Tijuana.

And when all your teeth are capped, flossing is ESSENTIAL. When my caps were first installed they were very tight and it was so hard to get floss past the gaps that I gave up. Big mistake. Within a couple of years my gums were a mess. Fortunately, by then my teeth had loosened up a bit and I discovered PLACKERS brand (tm) floss picks which are strung with something like Kevlar. Nothing will get me to the drugstore faster than the PLACKERS being on sale.

As having all your teeth capped is kind of an unnatural condition I start with an uphill battle. (Actual brushing doesn't really do much; my caps aren't porous so I can drink all the red wine I want and they won't stain.) But the gumline is where reality meets what's left of my biological teeth, and flossing is essential. It makes a huge difference and I have a supply of floss picks stashed everywhere I regularly eat. When I don't floss my bleeding gums remind me of my negligence very quickly. But with flossing it's 13 years out and my caps are still the best thing I ever did for myself.
posted by Bringer Tom at 1:43 PM on August 2, 2016


Bringer Tom, if your caps aren't made of stainless steel, you missed an enormous opportunity.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:56 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I used to hate flossing, but then I discovered woven dental floss (aka "gentle gum care"), and it was great! But now, you can't find it anymore. The only woven floss available is mint flavored with "hint of cinnamon."

WHERE DID THAT STUFF GO? I loved it so much, I felt super virtuous using the kind that claimed to have a little fluoride.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:53 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have tight teeth, dislike peppermint. THE Answer: drTung's Smart Floss. Lightly waxed tape with cardamom flavor.

Mmmmmmm. Think I'll pick up my living room floss and get started.
posted by Jesse the K at 3:25 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


My dentist had talked for years about the gum recession on my lower teeth, at times even suggesting gum grafts, and prescribed me fluoride toothpaste to help their sensitivity. After any cleaning, I always had an annoying gap in between my lower front teeth that caught at my tongue until it filled in with a smooth wall of plaque, though I usually had no cavities.

Dentist visit before last I decided that NOW was the time, I was going to start flossing reliably like a grown up instead of doing it once every week or two or three or... I didn't change my diet or anything else in my brushing. This past dentist visit? There was no gap in my teeth afterwards, because that gap had been filled by new gum instead of plaque!

So you can call me a flossing convert. It could be the case that you don't need to floss IF you're brushing properly, but the evidence suggests I'm incapable of that but apparently able to floss, so I'll take what I can get. Next on the dental agenda: starting to use a waterpik!
posted by foxfirefey at 3:26 PM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I never flossed because my teeth are too tightly-packed into my head and the floss either couldn't get in or it broke and then I had floss stuck in my teeth - how are you supposed to get THAT out? - and also because I couldn't wrench my mouth-hole open far enough to get my hands in and work away at the rear chompers, and hell if I know how anybody manages to do that.

But then I discovered off-brand Piksters any my life has changed, legit for reals. I floss after every meal and fire little particles of food onto my monitor or lap and it's immensely satisfying, PLUS my dentist has said she has noted an improvement in the health of my gums, so, uh, there you have it.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:29 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


My sequence: floss, brush with Sensodyne Repair and Protect, then a final 2 minute swish with a dab of 5% fluoride toothpaste

Maudlin - a few years ago the company that makes Novamin was sold to GlaxoSmithKline, and the licenses that various companies had to use Novamin in their products (Burt's Bees, Dr. Collins) were allowed to expire. I bought a few years' worth of Dr. Collins Novamin-based Restore toothpaste on clearance (almost out!), and my sequence is similar to yours, but based on a modified version of Dr. Ellie Phillip's protocol. Rinse with Closys, floss, brush, rinse with listerine, then swish with a personal mix of ACT fluoride rinse, xylitol, and Novamin for a few minutes (my dental cocktail). Dr. Phillips herself seems indifferent to the importance of flossing, placing emphasis on xylitol and Closys/Listerine and fluoride rinses.
posted by Auden at 5:43 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Fine. I just flossed. You people are a bad influence.
posted by hilaryjade at 7:52 PM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I flossed tonight for the first time in a couple weeks because fuck the Man.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:49 PM on August 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I never flossed at all but when I was in my mid-30s I had dental insurance and started seeing a really great dentist in San Francisco and she put me on a 3-month plan. Basically, my gums were so unhealthy that I had to have appointments every three months where the hygienist would poke at my "pockets(?)" on every single tooth and record the measurements. The only thing that moved me from the three-month plan to the four-month plan and then, eventually, the six-month plan was flossing.

But I've never been able to figure out stringy floss effectively, so I bought floss picks which are awesome. I don't always accurately calculate my Amazon orders though, so I now have 900 floss picks...

My current dentist likes the WaterPik and as far as I can tell it gives the same results, so I alternate between floss picks and WaterPik, depending on how tired I am at bedtime.

At this rate I probably have a three year supply of floss picks. I'm giving them as birthday gifts.
posted by bendy at 9:08 PM on August 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, I feel less bad about never flossing. No problems with my teeth or gums, other than that my gums end up pissed off for a few hours after a dentist's visit in which they've been assaulted with the unfamiliar substance.

At least it's not actively harmful to do, and appears to help some people. Maybe it's like support gear for knees and feet and whatnot, where if you're lucky you can do the rigorous stuff without injury, but a lot of people do a lot better with it and it doesn't hurt to have it even if you don't strictly require it?
posted by Scattercat at 6:16 AM on August 3, 2016


i'm terrible about flossing my teeth more than like once a week at best but i flossed last night cuz i could feel food stuck in there

and then my bf made fun of me for flossing because i'd sent him this article earlier in the day :(
posted by burgerrr at 8:58 AM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


For Science, I didn't floss last night. Now I know what "morning breath" is. Going back to flossing.


The one problem I have is that my teeth absolutely shred floss.

Your dentist might be able to solve this, particularly if you have some sharp edges on a filling or crown. Ask at your next appointment.
posted by amtho at 10:00 AM on August 3, 2016


Also: most people probably know this, but a low-effort dental regimen might work for a few genetically and epigenetically and environmentally-blessed people, but still be totally inadequate for others.
posted by amtho at 10:01 AM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Great Flossing Yarn - an interesting take from a skeptical British dentist. Buried here is the detail that The British Dental Association apparently recommends interdental brushes over floss.
posted by rongorongo at 1:37 PM on August 3, 2016


I find it amusing that many of the same internet commentators who blast homeopathy for not being supported by research all of a sudden find faith in their own personal anecdotes when it comes to floss.
posted by fairmettle at 2:56 PM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bringer Tom, if your caps aren't made of stainless steel, you missed an enormous opportunity.

I know, but the front caps are made of pure ceramic rather than metal coated with ceramic. Apparently they only use metal for the big heavy molars now. Those are base metal since I couldn't afford gold either so if I had skimped on the ceramic coating I would look like Jaws with jarringly normal-human front teeth.

I suppose I could have had the front caps done in some bizarre alternate color like red or blue...
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:58 PM on August 3, 2016


I'll admit it: I'm gross.

Except for the several times I floss within 24 hours of my twice-a-year dental appointment just to save the hygienist some scraping, I only ever floss if there's a big hunk of something stuck between my teeth that I can't work out with my tongue. And even then, only between the two teeth where the hunk is. I have zero cavities, zero fillings, zero dental work of any sort. I also have zero dental insurance. I am not convinced these facts are unrelated.

Flossing makes my gums bleed at the time, then ache (radiating through the roots of my teeth, which is excruciating) for several days afterwards. It has never, ever made any sense to me to continue doing something that causes bleeding and pain, let alone every day. No floss, no blood, no pain -- no-brainer. Frankly, I'd rather let my teeth rot and fall out than floss them. And they're not doing that, so, hey, bonus!

I was told on just one occasion that I had deep pockets -- not that they ever caused me any issues beyond tut-tutting from the dentist, who then sighed and told me once again that I have no cavities -- but those deep pockets went away as soon as I switched to an electric toothbrush. I get the feeling dentists like patients with deep pockets. Tee hee.

Also, I usually don't brush my teeth at night unless they're especially disgusting, because whenever I do, my morning breath is noticeably much, much worse than usual the next day. And I use the fluoride-free toothpaste from the hippie aisle, not because it's fluoride-free, but because it's the only one I could find that's not mint flavoured. I'm just so sick of mint! Our water here is fluoridated anyway, so, meh.

None of the above is anything I would ever in a million years admit to my dentist, mind you. Because of the guilt and the shame? Sure. But also because it would deprive me of the smug satisfaction I get from hearing that oblivious buffoon say, "Keep up the good work," every six months, as if I'm doing any more than brushing twice a day at the very most.

Oh, and I have all my wisdom teeth, too. When I was a teenager, my dentist strongly urged me to have them removed, saying they might cause problems. Might. I said, "Well, I'll let you know if they do." Twenty years later, they still don't. (It's not just that I'm a skeptical anti-dentite -- though I obviously totally am -- it's just...well, I'm 6'3", wear a size 7-7/8 hat, and don't have one of those weak-chin overbites that orthodontists dream about; the actual risk of medical complications just didn't seem anywhere as big as it was being made out to be. Heck, there's still plenty of room in this old jack-o'-lantern for another set of molars.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:01 PM on August 3, 2016


Not that you should start flossing but the bleeding and aching stops after a week or two. But don't give them the satisfaction!
posted by Justinian at 8:05 PM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Unlike Homoopathy there is scientific evidence that there is a basis for flossing improving dental health. The science journalism fail here is enormous.
A few key points:

1- This is a legal and scientific tangle. The law requires specific kinds of evidence, which we don't have -- long term studies showing that the short term results observed and proven experimentally are sustained and that those results are meaningful for dental health.

2- Various experts in the article speculate about what the result of those long term studies will be. As is typical of science journalism we hear from all sides, but reporters seem to omit that the overwhelming majority think flossing will be shown to be effective in those studies.
posted by humanfont at 6:52 AM on August 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Maybe flossing helps in that it forces you to pay attention to your teeth for a few minutes, increasing the likelihood of early detection of any number of issues. But the actual wax string between your molars has minimal health value in and of itself. Making that point would take longer than headline length, get far fewer snarky comments in retweets and generally not draw more eyeballs to ads. So, let's talk about how scientists are dumb and untrustworthy, because they keep changing their mind every time there's new evidence!
posted by DigDoug at 9:29 AM on August 4, 2016


I just read back through this thread and I'm dumbfounded. So I'll just link to this good Forbes recap of the issue which points out a key point it seems like a lot of folks are missing in their eagerness not to have to floss any more:
The story questioning the benefits of flossing doesn’t actually say that flossing has no benefits. The data, primarily based on a Cochrane review from 2011 and consensus statement from 2015, instead suggest that the evidence supporting a benefit of flossing is based on poor-quality studies. The Cochrane reviewers, for example, did not conclude that flossing is worthless...
Honestly, this entire incident is more about the dismal state of science and medical reporting in current journalism than it is about dental health.
posted by aught at 11:39 AM on August 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Please tell me I'm not the only person who keeps their floss in the living room.

*waves*

I find that if I keep it in as many places in the house as possible, I'll actually do it. And I have flossed every day this year (thanks habit apps!) whereas I think I could count the number of times I'd flossed at all before this year on both hands.

Now in RTFA land...

- At least one of the articles says that flossing can help with kids with low flouride exposure, so that is something.
- At least one article says that flossing reduces plaque, they just don't think that winds up correlating with cavities or other negative outcomes
- they do seem to be useful for managing gingivitis, but it can't be separated from regular toothbrushing (and hard to control for) and it seems like maybe just mechanical toothbrushes are good enough
- Flossing is still recommended for places power toothbrushes can't get to (which for me is still a lot of places) for gingivitis and periodontal health

The big deal seems to be that there are some anemic studies done by floss companies and no one really did bigger and better ones. The studies that have been done don't really show good correlations but it's hard to separate the different variables.
posted by jessamyn at 12:13 PM on August 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


"I like my dental hygienist, I think she's very pretty. While I'm in the waiting room I eat an entire box of Oreo cookies. Sometimes they have to cancel all the appointments for the rest of the afternoon."

- Steven Wright
posted by bendy at 12:25 PM on August 4, 2016


The story questioning the benefits of flossing doesn’t actually say that flossing has no benefits. The data, primarily based on a Cochrane review from 2011 and consensus statement from 2015, instead suggest that the evidence supporting a benefit of flossing is based on poor-quality studies. The Cochrane reviewers, for example, did not conclude that flossing is worthless...

And? We're in talisman territory here. The onus is on those claiming flossing does ward off evil spirits. If they can't provide evidence to support that claim, it's fair to assume it is false.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:18 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Body Ritual Among the Nacirema [warning: PDF link]
posted by b1tr0t at 3:16 PM on August 4, 2016


I AM VINDICATED
posted by not_on_display at 5:45 PM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


dephlogisticated (eponysterical?)... Those Plackers plastic floss pick thingies are made with Kevlar! As far as I know they are the only brand that is.... I was ordering them online for a while when I couldn't find them in a local store. They are the only kind of floss I don't shred.

(I only floss during occasional ~3 week periods when I resolve to Be A Better Me and Get My Life Together. It lasts about as long as most of my diets. So... I don't always floss, but when I do, I use those doohickeys with Kevlar in them.)
posted by OnceUponATime at 2:19 AM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


But trust me on the sunscreen.
posted by little onion at 6:44 AM on August 7, 2016


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