By Erika Owen
Updated: January 21, 2017
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An investigation by the Associated Press found that flossing is not as essential as your dentist would have you think.

To highlight the problem with flossing recommendations, the AP looked at studies about oral hygiene. Many of the case studies that “proved” flossing helped prevent gum disease and plaque build-up were conducted on too few people and lasted only weeks—far too short a time to accurately gauge whether the practice makes a difference.

“Most of these studies used outdated methods or tested few people,” wrote the AP. “Some lasted only two weeks, far too brief for a cavity or dental disease to develop. One tested 25 people after only a single use of floss.”

AP also found the focus of many studies off: “Such research, like the reviewed studies, focused on warning signs like bleeding and inflammation, barely dealing with gum disease or cavities.”

So why do dentists constantly tell us to floss daily?

“It's low risk, low cost," Tim Iafolla, a dentist with the National Institutes of Health, told the AP. "We know there's a possibility that it works, so we feel comfortable telling people to go ahead and do it.”

While many of us use vacation as an excuse to take a break from daily tasks we dread, travelers who do pack floss could perhaps lighten their luggage by the tiniest bit.

For the full findings, read the story on AP.

Erika Owen is the Senior Audience Engagement Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @erikaraeowen.