Dentists urge people to keep flossing despite debate on its effectiveness in the US
Irish dentists are urging people to continue to clean between their teeth - despite a controversial American report which claims that flossing does little to prevent gum disease and tooth decay.
An investigation by the Associated Press revealed that research over the past decade into the effectiveness of flossing was "weak" and "very unreliable".
The exposé also garnered a letter from the American government acknowledging that the effectiveness of flossing has never been researched.
It follows a move by the US federal government this year to remove its recommendation to floss at least once a day in the annual dietary guidelines.
Dublin dentist Dr Maher Kemmoona, who specialises in gum disease, said it was more important how people cleaned between the teeth than what they used.
"It has a lot to do with gaps between the teeth," he told the Irish Independent.
"If someone has large gaps between the teeth, flossing won't get rid of food particles and plaque that brushing alone failed to dislodge. In that case, interdental brushes should be used.
"But if someone has narrow gaps between the teeth, than electric toothbrushes or floss should be used. The important thing is a good technique. Interdental cleaning is even more important than brushing."
Dr PJ Byrne, who is also a periodontist and president of the Irish Dental Association, said proper dental hygiene practices would vary from patient to patient depending on their teeth.
"There is a lack of scientific evidence in terms of the reduction of dental decay between the teeth achieved as a result of flossing, and that probably explains its omission from the new US guidelines," he said.
"The other key factor is that there have been huge advances in the development of interdental brushes and these are now probably more effective in preventing or controlling gum disease. However, floss - or special types of floss - may have a role in certain circumstances for patients."
Dr Byrne added that, in terms of dental decay, reducing the frequency of sugar intake was vital, and was the most important factor in minimising the risk of decay.
"If you have any specific concerns with regard to gum health, your dentist or hygienist can provide advice on the most appropriate methods to suit your individual needs," he said.
Dr Kemmoona said an excellent oral hygiene routine eliminates just 90pc of harmful bacteria and urged people to have their teeth cleaned at least once a year.