I Just Reduced My Life Expectancy by Six Years , but I Also Just Freed-Up 45 Seconds a Day

My reading for pleasure has slowed downed dramatically in the past few weeks, and I’m not really sure why. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get back into the habit soon.

What this means is that I am still reading the book I first wrote about two months ago, Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life by Rory Sutherland.

The book is wonderful, and as I noted in my post from a couple of months ago, I would likely get one or two more posts out of it.

And so here we are.

Sutherland claims that we do many things out of habit, and we may not really be sure why we are doing it.

One example he uses is that of flossing.

Sutherland notes that a recent report (2016) proved that there were no dental-health benefits to the practice of flossing.

I was taken aback when I read that. I was a daily flosser.

One reason for such a habit is that I had read somewhere that flossing everyday adds about six years to your life. That seemed like a pretty good return on investment: 45 seconds a day for an extra six years of life? Count me in…

According to these claims, daily flossing adds 6.4 years to a person’s life; flossing and overall dental health reduces the chances of infectious diseases and has other beneficial effects.

Given such a precise number, I had little reason to doubt the claim.

But then I came across this discussion in Sutherland’s book, which mentions another study, a more recent one.

In 2015, the Associated Press asked the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture for evidence to support its recommendations on flossing, which had been in place since 1979. The AP also followed up with written requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

When the federal government issued its latest dietary guidelines in 2016, 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.”

I guess that means I’ve been hoodwinked by dentists and floss manufacturers, But there’s an easy fix – I stopped flossing.

I can’t claim that I’ve been putting that extra 30 seconds a day to good use, but just think about all the money I save on floss…


76 thoughts on “I Just Reduced My Life Expectancy by Six Years , but I Also Just Freed-Up 45 Seconds a Day

  1. I suspect that there is a counter study that says it is effective. That’s the problem with these things. It’s like the “expert witnesses” in a trial where both sides present opposing viewpoints. If flossing doesn’t work, then dentists have been scamming us for a long time. I’m going to continue to floss as my hygenist always tells me that the pockets on my gums are better when I’ve been flossing regularly.

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  2. Who would have thought? I admit that I am not a daily flosser, but when I do, it’s a somewhat satisfying experience. There’s nothing like removing a popcorn kernel from your teeth.

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  3. I need to show my husband this! He flosses regularly. Do I ? No! but I have very good teeth, not one cavity. Sooooo…..as for my study, That’s one minute every day that I can spend on something better, like reading a book, or a blog post. 🙂

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    1. Flossing is not for your teeth so much as it is for your gums. It prevents pyorrhea, halitosis, and edentulous gums. With gum disease, your gums can recede so far that your perfect teeth will fall out like little chiclets.

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  4. I think this is where you must simply follow the advice of your own personal dentist or hygienist. If they recommend you floss, it is unlikely that it is in an effort to earn a kick back from the floss manufacturing companies. And considering the number of mouths they look into in a day, they are the experts as far as I am concerned.

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  5. I never liked flossing. My teeth overlap in places which made it difficult to get the stuff down and it caught again on the way up. Flossing made my gums bleed (which probaby indicated that I needed to). The gaps between my teeth now require something more akin to a bottle brush, which I can see the point of.

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  6. I’ve never got on with flossing, give me a good old toothbrush every time. I’m a little worried at the disparity in your estimates of time saving, though – 30 secs or 45 secs? You do realise that you’re supposed to gargle the mouthwash, not drink it, right?

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    1. good catch with the seconds; originally I had them all at 30 seconds, then I changed them to 45; I guess I missed one! thanks for the tip on the mouthwash, that could have been part of the problem. 🙂 Now I have heard that mouthwash is quite good for dental health…

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  7. I’m not sure I agree with your logic (regarding losing six years of your life), but I also feel hoodwinked. I’m now rethinking my entire dental regimen. Well, just 45 daily seconds of it.

    Thanks for sharing this groundbreaking revelation.

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  8. I read that about flossing many years ago, and stopped flossing also. Then, when I saw my hygienist, my gums started bleeding like a mugging victim in a dark alley. I was lectured that this was gum disease, and warned that it’s the consequence of not flossing, and that it puts me in danger of losing my teeth. So I resumed flossing.

    I think if you only ate healthy, nonprocessed foods, such as whole grains, you can get away with not flossing. But otherwise, it seems like a recipe for needing dentures someday in the future. How that might affect your lifespan, I’m not sure.

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  9. Hi Jim. Enjoyed that, but must admit it feels like someone trying to convince me that face masks don’t help prevent germs spreading. An alternative to flossing, which can be a messy, fiddly, business in my experience – tiny interdental brushes. And so much quicker, so it’s a win-win. 🙂

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  10. My best friend is currently studying to become a dentist and she was telling me about the importance of flossing and was surprised when I told her I don’t floss regularly and insisted I should. Maybe I need to send her this information lol!

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