Earlier this year, Jeff Donn of the Associated Press single-handedly wrecked the heck out of the practice of flossing, and the story went absolutely viral. According to an interview between Donn and the Poynter Institute, over 150 organizations picked up the news after it first broke at the AP.
The initial story grew out of a tip from Donn’s son’s orthodontist: There was not any real evidence to substantiate dental floss’s incessant endorsements from all sides. Not from dentists, nor the federal government, nor anyone else for that matter.
With how we have been conditioned over the years–floss after meals, after you brush, before bed, etc–the thought might sound absurd, though largely inconsequential.
In the case of the annual Dietary Guidelines for Americans, however, it becomes a far more crucial distinction. All suggestions included in the publication must be backed by reputable research and scientific evidence. It turned out flossing had neither.
Despite what has been hammered into our heads as common sense, flossing holds very few practical benefits for the American public, or at least none that have been reasonably proven. Following a Freedom of Information request by Donn, records of the so-called studies were obtained for review. Beyond ineffectualness, the terms “inconsistent” and “weak” were thrown around often.
For three Stetson University students, this news was not only still a surprise–but to a small extent at least, unbelievable. Jason Cruz, a double major in English and philosophy, from Davenport, Fla, said learning the scandal would not affect his habits.
“Well, you don’t just floss for the plaque or whatever. Or at least I don’t. What about all those little food particles hanging out in there–what am I supposed to do, use my hands like an animal?” Funnily enough, Donn expressed a similar sentiment when Poynter asked him his current stance on dental floss.
Another student, Alexandra Rasdal, a senior psychology major from Dunedin, Fla, had not come across the findings this summer either.
“I don’t floss,” she admitted quickly, laughing. “But that is really cool. No, I didn’t see anything about it. I’m surprised it was able to get that far without any of the research, you know? That should have been the first thing.”
A third person, JB Pitts from Kentucky, who majors in environmental science, speaks softly and laughs readily, heard buzz on the grapevine but had no details.
“I feel like…there was probably an article online but I didn’t click on it.”
He seemed mildly apprehensive about the news, if not necessarily surprised by the findings themselves.
“What–floss–It’s just string, right? Mouth string? I’m sure it can’t do that much.” He laughed, then shrugged. “I mean, I’ll floss to get something out of my teeth, but…not really a fan.”