A new 12-week randomized study shows some pretty significant data on just how effective Listerine is — particularly compared to standard flossing. (Here’s a link to the study data.)

This isn’t the first time a claim like this has been made. Many years ago Listerine actually did a TV ad stating that a study showed rinsing with it was more effective than flossing. Interestingly, that ad only aired a few times and disappeared abruptly. Perhaps the study showing that data was overly optimistic, or there were too many caveats to that statement being true.

In any case, we fast forward several years and have a new study making headlines and boldly claiming that Listerine is 4.6 times more effective than flossing. That’s significant.

For context, the study was set up to monitor 3 main conditions (including a 4th control group):

  • A group of participants who brushed twice per day and used Listerine immediately after each brushing for 30 seconds.
  • A group of participants who brushed twice per day and had their teeth flossed by a licensed hygienist after brushing.
  • A group of participants who brushed twice per day and flossed themselves, under the supervision of a hygienist, after each brushing.

All participants were monitored on a daily basis. Technically speaking, here is how the study describes the process:

“Primary endpoints were interproximal mean Modified Gingival Index (MGI) and interproximal mean Turesky Modification of the Quigley-Hein Plaque Index (TPI) at Week 12. Interproximal mean bleeding index (Bl) at Week 12 was a secondary endpoint.”

Efficacy of Professional Flossing, Supervised Flossing and Mouth Rinsing Regimens on Plaque and Gingivitis: A 12-Week, Randomized Clinical Trial.

According to the study, the group using Listerine twice per day experienced much better control of plaque and bacteria, and the MGI/TPI numbers were more favorable at the end of the study.

While the longer term effects have not yet been studied, this is an interesting batch of findings. Most dentists are understandably reluctant to actually advise patients not to floss even when a study indicates that an alternative may make doing so viable.

Still, one thing this study also makes clear that pretty much anyone can agree on is this: including a regular oral rinse such as Listerine alongside regular brushing as flossing is a clear win, and goes a long way toward controlling plaque. In turn, tooth and gum health is preserved rather significantly.

Since we always say that prevention is far preferable to restoration after a problem arises, these findings should not be taken lightly or tossed aside.