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Quit Flossing and just use Listerine?

Ready to quit flossing? Read fine print in Listerine's claim first

Tuesday, July 13, 2004
By Terri Finch Hamilton The Grand Rapids Press

When dentist Thomas Sommerdyke saw the TV ad that says you can skip the floss and just swish with Listerine, it set his teeth on edge.

"I was a little taken aback," says Sommerdyke, who practices at Dental South Family Dentistry in Wyoming. "The way Listerine is presenting this, it's like it's a revolution. Do I think people should stop flossing? Absolutely not.

"It's a dangerous message," says Sommerdyke, 72, a dentist for nearly five decades. "I think they crossed the line."

Listerine's latest commercial says its product is as good as flossing when it comes to wresting germs that cause plaque and gingivitis from between your teeth.

"It's incredible news. And we just can't keep it bottled up. Listerine's as effective as floss," declares the narrator. "Clinical studies prove it. So, even if you don't floss like you should, now you can get its healthy benefits from simply rinsing. Listerine kills the germs that cause plaque, even between teeth."

But before you ditch your floss, read the fine print.

In teeny letters at the bottom of the screen, it reads "Floss daily." And "Ask your dentist."

The ones we asked said keep on flossing.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," says Chris Smiley, 42, a dentist at Smiley Family Dentistry on East Beltline NE. " You have to read that fine print."

"A rinse can flush off things on the tooth surface, but it will only penetrate a couple of millimeters into the gum line," says Smiley, a dentist for 18 years. "Floss goes along the root's surface and scrapes off that debris. No matter how hard you swish, you can't blow some of that stuff off."

The commercial is the result of two clinical studies, sponsored by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, the Morris Plains, N.J.-based maker of Listerine, that show a couple of 30-second rinses per day is "at least as effective" as flossing once per day for reducing plaque and gingivitis between the teeth.

Following an extensive approval process from the American Dental Association, which required the six-month clinical studies, the ADA gave the nod to Pfizer to publicize the claim to consumers.

But that was with the caveat the company needed to promote the importance of continuing to brush and floss every day, according to Clifford Whall, director of the ADA's Acceptance Program.

2004 Grand Rapids Press.


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