The notion that flossing is necessary to maintain healthy teeth has recently been delivered a major blow.
TIME Magazine reports:
Despite it being one of the most universal recommendations in all of public health, there’s little proof that flossing works.AP did some of its own investigating:
Even so, the federal government, dental organizations and manufacturers of floss have pushed the practice for decades. Dentists provide samples to their patients; the American Dental Association insists on its website that “Flossing is an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums”.
The federal government has recommended flossing since 1979, first in a surgeon general’s report and later in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued every five years. The guidelines must be based on scientific evidence, under the law.
Last year, the Associated Press asked the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture for their evidence, and followed up with written requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
When the federal government issued its latest dietary guidelines this year, the flossing recommendation had been removed, without notice. In a letter to the AP, the government acknowledged the effectiveness of flossing had never been researched, as required.
The AP looked at the most rigorous research conducted over the past decade, focusing on 25 studies that generally compared the use of a toothbrush with the combination of toothbrushes and floss. The findings? The evidence for flossing is “weak, very unreliable,” of “very low” quality, and carries “a moderate to large potential for bias”.So how did the idea that flossing was healthy for your teeth come about?
“The majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal,” said one review conducted last year. Another 2015 review cites “inconsistent/weak evidence” for flossing and a “lack of efficacy”.
One study review in 2011 did credit floss with a slight reduction in gum inflammation – which can sometimes develop over time into full-fledged gum disease. However, the reviewers ranked the evidence as “very unreliable”. A commentary in a dental magazine stated that any benefit would be so minute it might not be noticed by users.
For the answer to that, we need to look into Levi Spear Parmly. He is generally considered the “Father of Dental Floss.”
In 1819, he wrote a book, A Practical Guide to the Management of the Teeth ; Comprising a Discovery of the Origin of Caries, or Decay of the Teeth, With its Prevention and Cure, in the book he claimed to have invented flossing (My bold):
I can now assure my readers, that the result of my labours, founded on the successful
prosecution of a series of the most numerous and satisfactory experiments, few have had even an opportunity of making is, that the relics of what we eat or drink, (without regard to its quality) being allowed to accumulate, stagnate, and putrefy, either in the interstices of the teeth, as is most commonly the case, or else in those indentures on their surface, favourable for the lodgement of food, is universally the cause of their decay, and generally of most other disorders, to which they are exposed…
This is the true source of caries, or decay of the teeth, which the two late eminent writers before-mentioned, find so difficult to account for; and of which discovery I cannot help feeling a pride and pleasure in avowing myself the author; for I can, with confidence, assert, that if the teeth and gums are regularly cleaned with the dentifric apparatus, recommended by the author, no caries can possibly take place.Hmm. Sanke oil visits the mouth?
But if we dig deeper, we learn that Parmly has a very interesting family. Three of Parmly's brothers joined him in dentistry, Eleazar Jr., Jahial and Samuel.
According to The Hearld (Braintree, Vermont).
Eleazar Parmly also built himself a notable career in the field. He settled in New York City in 1823, where he lived until his death in 1874.
Among other contributions, he focused on improvements to dental instruments; he may have been the most highly paid dentist in the country in his day, with his fortune at death reported to be $3 million (an estimated $62 million in 2015 dollars)But here is what really gets interesting. We know that cronies like to set up journals and associations that can influence people and especially government agencies. The current medical industry, for example, is one giant controlled oligopoly that was created by John D. Rockefeller.
What does this have to do with the Parmly dental family?
The Herald again:
Eleazar also served as president of the New York College of Dentistry; he and his partner Solymon Brown established the first dental journal, “The American Journal of Dental Scientists,” and also founded the first dental society in the country, the precursor to the American Society of Dental Surgeons.So we have a family that is clearly an important influence in the dental industry and appearing to use Rockefeller type methods of influence.
And oh yeah, Eleazar's great-grandaughter, Mary French, married Laurance Rockefeller.
I sure would like to know how much money Levi Spear Parmly and family made by Levi's selling floss after he wrote "I can with confidence, assert, that if the teeth and gums are regularly cleaned with the dentifric apparatus, recommended by the author, no caries can possibly take place."
And I would love to know what Eleazar's The American Journal of Dental Scientists said about it and whether Eleazar's formed dental society promoted it.
This could be a longer running dental scam than the fluoride scam.
Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.com and Target Liberty. He is also author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics. Wenzel on LinkedIn