Tuesday August 02, 2016

This dentist doesn't floss. And he says you don't need to either

Damien Walmsley is a dentist in the UK.

Damien Walmsley is a dentist in the UK. (Facebook/Damien Walmsley)

Listen 5:35

Our dentists have drilled it into our heads: you must brush and floss daily. But it turns out there's little evidence that flossing does much good.

The Associated Press looked into dozens of studies and found only the weakest of links between oral health and flossing.

Professor Damien Walmsley is a dentist and a scientific advisor to the British Dental Association. Walmsley says he doesn't floss routinely — only when he gets food stuck in his teeth.

"I don't floss because I brush my teeth twice a day — quite systematically, quite thoroughly — for two minutes in the morning and two minutes at night. By brushing, I know that my gums are really good," Walmsley tells As it Happens guest host Rosemary Barton.

Despite numerous studies, Walmsley says there's little proof that flossing is beneficial.

"[Flossing] does need a lot of dexterity with the fingers," he says. "It needs to be done really, really well. And then when you've done it really, really well, they've done these clinical trials . . . and they've found that it doesn't convey a big advantage."  

Unproven Floss

Dr. Wayne Aldredge, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, demonstrates how dental floss should be used in Holmdel, N.J. (Associated Press)

Walmsley says it's all right to ditch the floss —  as long as people get regular check-ups at the dentist. He also stresses the importance of brushing two times a day with a fluoride toothpaste and cutting down on sugary foods.  

"That will get you a really good, healthy smile."

For more on the dentist who doesn't floss, listen to our full interview.