Sorry, dentists: Only a little over a third of the men we surveyed are diligent enough to floss daily, it turns out. Nearly half are split between “a few times a week” and “rarely,” while a handful admit to doing some last-minute flossing right before a dental appointment.
Before we judge that 15% too harshly, however, it’s important to ask the question: Do we really need to floss? According to the American Dental Association, absolutely: their website uses words like “essential” and “important oral hygiene practice” in regards to flossing. But earlier this year, the American Academy of Periodontology admitted that there’s really no definitive evidence that flossing helps to prevent either cavities or gum disease, and that your toothbrush (plus fluoride toothpaste) alone seems capable of doing the job. This doesn’t mean that flossing isn’t useful per se—it simply means that, despite what you’ve always been told, there’s no firm scientific proof that it is.
Since the decision to floss or not seems, at this point, to be entirely up to your conscience—and how much you enjoy it—the only other question is when to do it. Despite some heated debate over whether to floss before or after brushing, there are actually pros and cons to both: According to Patricia McClory, a pediatric dentist we spoke to about this very subject, flossing first can help create a clearer path for the fluoride to reach your teeth, while brushing first helps remove the big chunks of food so the floss can deal with the stubborn hangers-on.
When all’s said and done, just remember two things. First, regardless of whether you floss, always give your tongue a scrub when you’re brushing your teeth. And second, keep your toothbrush and your floss either inside your medicine cabinet, or at least six feet away from the toilet. Toilet flush blast radius is a real thing, and it is disgusting.