In the world of oral hygiene, flossing definitely gets a bad rap. While mint or cinnamon flavored floss is available, you don’t exactly get to savor the taste of the floss when you do it. There’s no satisfying swishing when you floss, unlike when you use mouthwash. And, the concept of flossing can seem a little gross: you are pushing a piece of string between your teeth to remove trapped bits of food.
Since flossing is so unappealing, it’s not that much of a surprise that a recent survey, conducted on behalf of the American Academy of Periodontology, found that slightly more than a quarter of adults aren’t exactly straightforward with their dentists when it comes to how frequently they floss. A survey conducted by the American Dental Association in 2014 had similar results: four out of every 10 people surveyed claimed to floss daily, while 20 percent of those surveyed said that they never flossed.
People look on flossing with such disdain, according to the the AAP survey, that more than a third of participants said they would rather do household chores instead of flossing. Nine percent said they would prefer sitting in traffic for more than an hour to flossing. The task might not be enjoyable, but it is an essential part of a person’s oral care routine.
The Benefits of Flossing
Why is flossing so important? It removes plaque, the sticky film created by bacteria and sugar, from between your teeth. Your toothbrush can’t get in between the teeth, so flossing is the only way to make sure that plaque is removed. When left on the teeth, the plaque hardens into tartar, which only a dentist can remove, usually using sharp, scrapy tools.
If you don’t see a dentist regularly and don’t floss at home, the bacteria found in plaque and tartar can irritate your gums and cause inflammation, leading to gingivitis first, then a more advanced form of periodontal disease. In the earliest stages, gum disease is reversible. It’s treatable in later stages, but the treatment is often more involved and may require surgery. Left untreated, it can cause tooth loss, receding gums, and other problems in the mouth. Gum disease can also thought to be linked to a number of other conditions and health problems throughout the body.
Tips for Doing It
Flossing might not be a miracle cure for gum disease, but it can go a long way to helping to keep your teeth and gums healthy. If you aren’t sure how to floss, learning how to do it correctly can go a long way. First, you want to use the right length of floss. Using too much or too little will make the process more difficult. Pull out a length of floss that’s about 18 inches long.
Wind the ends of the floss around the middle fingers on both of your hands. Hold the floss between the thumb and forefinger on each hand, placing about an inch or two between your hands. Gently glide the floss between two teeth, being careful not to snap it or sharply push it against your gums. Rub the floss up and down along the sides of the your teeth and gently glide the floss up into the space between your tooth and gums.
Switch to a new area of the floss as you work from one pair of teeth to the next. The used floss won’t work as well at cleaning your teeth and might spread bacteria from one area of the mouth to the next. When you floss, make sure that you get between every pair of teeth, even those in the back.
How to Remember to Floss
Remembering to floss can be part of the challenge for many people. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to gently remind yourself to do it. It doesn’t matter when you floss, so pick a time that’s most convenient for you and when you’re less likely to be in a rush and be tempted to skip it. It also doesn’t matter if you floss before you brush or after, as long as you do it.
One way to remind yourself to floss is to set an alarm in your phone. Have the alarm go off around the time that you’re usually brushing your teeth, either in the morning or evening. Another way to remember to floss is to tie a small piece of floss around your toothbrush or around the toothpaste tube. Don’t use that piece to floss, just as a reminder to yourself.
Flossing isn’t as bad as it might seem. In fact, it can help you avoid dental procedures and treatments that can be a lot less enjoyable and a lot more expensive than flossing.
Miami periodontists Dr. John Paul Gallardo can give you more details on the benefits and importance of flossing, as well as tips to help you remember to do it. To learn more about flossing, gum disease, and other oral health issues, call (305) 447-1447 to schedule an appointment today.