There are a lot of things that you know you should do. Balance and rotate your tires periodically. Take your cat for his vaccines. Exercise three times a week. But in the midst of life’s busyness, all too often, these things go undone. Another thing you should do is floss your teeth. And, fortunately, this is one thing that is quick and easy to accomplish.
Flossing can help prevent tooth decay and discoloration. It can limit the need for extensive procedures, like fillings and root canal therapy. And it can even prevent tooth loss. All of these benefits from something that takes just a few minutes a day? Now there’s more incentive than ever to floss those pearly whites!
Along with flossing, regular visits to the dentist are an essential part of oral health.
Why is flossing so important?
When you eat, food quickly breaks down in your mouth. Carbohydrates interact with bacteria to create an acid, which can start to wear away dental enamel. Even more alarming, when acid and food particles remain in your mouth, they can create plaque, a sticky film, which clings to your teeth. Over time, plaque will harden into tartar.
Plaque and tartar both contain bacteria. When these substances remain on your teeth, cavities are likely to develop. Plus, bacteria can move into your gum tissue, leading to periodontitis. Along with redness and inflammation, periodontitis can cause widespread tooth loss.
Plaque can form anywhere on teeth, but it is most problematic in between teeth (also known as interdental surfaces). Flossing can remove an estimated 80% of interdental plaque - making it far more effective than brushing alone.
How often should I floss?
The American Dental Association recommends flossing once a day. The timing is not important. You could brush before bed, in the morning, or after lunch. The most important thing is that you are doing it!
Unfortunately, only 30% of Americans report flossing once a day. 37% report frequent (but not daily) flossing, while 32% admit that they never floss at all. Males and individuals over age 75 are the most likely to skip flossing altogether.
Do kids need to floss, too?
Absolutely! In fact, parents should begin flossing their children’s teeth as soon as they have two or more that touch.
Is there a right way to floss my teeth?
Yes. While there is no right time to floss, there is definitely a correct method. First, use a piece of floss that is about 18 inches long. Wrap each end around your middle fingers on both hands and continue to wind the floss around these fingers as you go. This will ensure that you are flossing each tooth with a clean section.
With the floss between your thumb and pointer finger, gently rub the sides of each tooth. As you get to the gums, use a C-shaped motion to clean along the gum line. Glide the floss back down, and be sure to rub the back side of your last tooth. Repeat on the top and bottom, and throw the floss away when you are finished.
What kind of floss should I use?
The most important thing is to use a floss with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Beyond that, choose a floss that you find comfortable and that will encourage you to keep going with your new habit. Wax coated flosses often fit more easily between teeth. Some have a mint flavored coating, while others are unflavored. The flavoring is purely a personal preference; it doesn’t have anything to do with the actual cleaning of your teeth.
If you find it difficult to maneuver floss, try floss picks. These can be especially helpful for kids and older adults. A water flosser can also be effective. However, experts warn that these should really only be used by individuals who have difficulty with standard floss. Again, older individuals may benefit. Orthodontic patients often find that a water flosser helps them clean beneath their braces, where floss cannot reach.
Should I floss before brushing or vice versa?
Here, too, it is a matter of personal preference. Floss when it feels comfortable for you - as long as you do it! If you choose to brush first, don’t skip out on flossing just because your teeth “feel” clean.
Call Our Team for More Oral Care Tips
Still have questions about flossing or other aspects of oral care? Contact our office! Our team will recommend specific products or techniques that may be appropriate for your needs.