Every time we go get our teeth checked, the dentist asks the dreaded question: “Have you been flossing?” Most people don’t floss as much as they’re told they should, which probably means most people are then in the awkward situation of either lying or disappointing the dentist. Luckily, what we’ve been told about flossing is not actually true. It turns out, flossing and good oral health are not as related as we thought.

Flossing Has Never Been Properly Researched

When the Associated Press (AP) asked for evidence from various government departments (Health and Human Services and Agriculture) showing the health benefits of flossing, none of them could come up with anything. Supposedly, flossing helps prevent cavities and gum disease, but there is no research to prove it. The law states that making a statement about the health benefits of something like flossing must be backed by science. Somehow, that has slipped through the cracks until now.

The AP was able to track down over 20 studies that did conclude some interesting information about flossing. It turns out the link between flossing and teeth and gum health is not strong at all. Most studies can’t demonstrate that floss is effective at getting rid of plaque.

Flossing Could Actually Damage Your Health

Flossing may cause problems with teeth and gum health rather than helping. There is a chance that “bad bacteria” can be released from the gums when flossing. If a person has a weak immune system, this could lead to health issues.

Additionally, if you don’t floss correctly, it has the potential to damage previous dental work. While none of these negative effects have been researched enough to provide solid evidence either, people should be aware of the possibility that flossing is not good for you.

What Does A Dentist Recommend Regarding Flossing?

The president of the American Academy of Periodontology, Wayne Aldredge, still tells his patients to floss. He says flossing will delay teeth from rotting. Despite not having hard science to prove that flossing is necessary for good health, dentists probably have a decent idea of what is and isn’t good for your oral health.

Anyone who flosses can tell you that little bits of food come out when they floss. Not flossing, then, means those food bits will just remain between your teeth. That seems kind of gross, so perhaps it’s best to just keep flossing, with or without evidence of its related health benefits.