Along with brushing, flossing is an essential part of your dental routine — or at least it should be! Only 40% of Americans floss at least once per day, despite flossing being one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Here’s why you should be flossing twice per day, and how to make sure you’re getting the full benefits…
Why should I floss?
Many of the most common dental health problems start with plaque build-up. This clear, sticky substance is made up of food, saliva, bacteria, and acid, leading to everything from inflammation and soreness to gum disease and tooth loss.
Brushing your teeth twice a day helps to prevent plaque from accumulating on the teeth, but food and bacteria can also get trapped between the teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach. That’s where flossing comes in, loosening trapped food and bacteria so that they can be rinsed away.
Trapped food and bacteria are also a major cause of bad breath, giving off an unpleasant odor as they decompose. Flossing keeps your breath fresh by removing them from your mouth before they have a chance to break down.
Plaque build-up eventually leads to gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. This is the first stage of gum disease and is usually signaled by sore, red, and/or bleeding gums. If left untreated, gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, a serious condition that causes serious infection, gum recession, irreversible bone loss, and tooth loss. You can prevent gingivitis and periodontitis by — you guessed it! — flossing twice a day.
From a cosmetic standpoint, flossing can help to keep your smile bright by preventing discoloration between the teeth. Some floss products contain a whitening agent to help lighten stains, while others scrub them off with abrasive micro particles.
But flossing hurts my gums…
If you haven’t flossed in a while, it may feel a little uncomfortable or sore at first. You might even notice a little bleeding. Don’t panic! The discomfort should go away after a few weeks of consistent flossing. However, you should see your dentist if the discomfort remains after a few weeks, or if bleeding is heavy or persistent
Which floss should I choose?
When choosing a dental floss, look for wide, waxed ‘ribbon’ floss. The width covers a larger surface area than thinner floss and removes more hard-to-reach food and bacteria, while the wax minimizes gum irritation by helping the floss to slide easily between the teeth.
Shouldn’t I use interdental sticks instead?
Interdental sticks or brushes are a good alternative for people who don’t have the dexterity to maneuver floss. They’re also recommended when the gaps between the teeth are too large for floss to properly clean. This could be due to a condition like gum disease, or simply due to your natural tooth structure.
Sticks come in a range of sizes, so be sure to use one that fully fills the gaps between your teeth. Your dentist can help you to choose the proper size for you and will give you a corresponding color, which you can then use to buy the right sticks from your local pharmacy.
What about water flossers?
A water flosser is a hand-held electronic tool that shoots small jets of water at the teeth and gums, dislodging food and removing plaque. Some people prefer these over string floss, but our opinion is that manual flossing is more effective.
The exception? If you have braces, or if you have limited mobility and cannot maneuver string floss between your teeth, then a water flosser will make your life much easier!
Am I flossing correctly?
Finally, proper technique is important if you want to get the full benefit of flossing. Start by breaking off around 18 inches of floss, wind each end around your fingers to leave a 6-inch piece in the center, then hold the floss taut.
Slide the floss gently back and forth between your teeth, applying a light upward pressure as you go. The floss might not slide between your teeth easily at first, but avoid forcing the floss or using snapping, ’sawing’, or yanking motions, as this can hurt your gums and cause bleeding
Work the floss all the way up to your gum line, moving it back and forth across the upper curve between the gum and tooth, and then back down between the teeth. Move on to the next tooth and repeat, using a clean section of the floss to avoid transferring bacteria.
Want to know more about flossing? Talk to Mountain Peak!
Here at Mountain Peak Dentistry, we can’t over-emphasize the importance of flossing and we regularly see the benefits first-hand in our patients. We’d be happy to answer your questions and advise you on proper tools and technique, so contact our friendly dental team now at (303) 988-7800.
About Mountain Peak Dentistry:
Mountain Peak Dentistry is the dental practice of leading dentist, Dr. Brennan Bonati. We’re proud to be recognized as the most trusted, reliable and compassionate dental practice in Lakewood, CO and the surrounding areas, providing comprehensive, restorative and cosmetic dentistry.