All You Need to Know About Flossing

Flossing is a very important part of a good oral hygiene routine, but many of you may skip this step either in your rush to get out the door in the morning or into bed at night. And that is a huge mistake! Flossing removes food, bacteria and plaque hiding between the teeth and along the gum line that can cause cavities, gum disease and other oral health problems.  Brushing alone simply isn’t enough. Read on for all you ever needed (or wanted) to know about this important part of your dental hygiene routine.

Why is Flossing Such an Important Habit to Establish?

Cleaning between your teeth and along your gum line dislodges trapped food remnants in difficult to reach places in your mouth.  It also removes plaque from the sides of your teeth. If plaque is left between your teeth, it can lead to serious oral health issues that can ultimately affect your overall health. Failing to floss regularly can contribute to the following:

Tartar Build-up. Plaque that remains on your teeth hardens into tartar. And once that happens, you won’t be able to remove it on your own. Tartar must be removed by a professional at your dentist’s office.

Gum Disease.  If you have plaque and tartar build-up, it can lead to sensitive, red and inflamed gums. These are the symptoms of gum disease. Early stage gum disease is called gingivitis and is reversible through brushing, flossing and regular visits to your dentist.  Advanced gum disease, called periodontitis, is not reversible and requires professional treatments.

Cavities. Plaque and tartar can lead to tooth decay (cavities). Cavities are holes in the enamel of your teeth that, if left untreated, cause pain and sometimes serious infection.

Chronic Diseases: Chronic oral health issues like periodontitis have been linked to other serious health problems.

Flossing Options

One reason that many people don’t floss as often as they should is because they simply don’t enjoy the process. You may not realize it, but there are alternatives to traditional flossing.  Here are the best ways to clean between your teeth (and only one method involves traditional floss):

Traditional Floss.  This is also called string floss and is the method that most of us are most familiar with as a part of our daily dental hygiene routine. Traditional dental floss comes in either waxed or un-waxed varieties.

Dental Picks.  Dental picks consist of floss that’s pre-attached to a plastic handle, so you don’t need to thread it between your fingers. They are disposable and convenient and a great option for kids or adults with orthodontic appliances.

Interdental Brushes. These tools are similar to tiny toothbrushes and make it easier to clean hard to reach areas of your mouth. They are also a good option for anyone with orthodontic appliances and/or small gaps between their teeth.

Other Flossing Devices.  Water flossers and floss threaders are two other alternatives to traditional floss. Water flossers are very well-liked for their convenience and comfort. Floss threaders are especially popular among those undergoing orthodontic treatments.

Whatever option works for you, make sure to choose a product with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance to make sure it is safe and effective.  And remember, the best flossing device for you is one that you will actually use once every day.

Getting into the Habit

Speaking of flossing frequency, don’t worry if you have been less than stellar at flossing in the past. There’s no time like the present to get into this important habit. Here are a few tips to help you establish a healthy flossing routine:

  • If flossing or using a flossing device or interdental brush is uncomfortable or causes bleeding at first, don’t get discouraged. Floss gently and if the bleeding or discomfort continues for more than a few days, call your dentist to schedule a checkup.
  • Try cleaning between your teeth at the same time every day, preferably a time that works for your schedule and allows you to devote the appropriate attention to flossing. Don’t get hung up on whether that time is in the morning or at night – dental experts don’t have conclusive evidence on when flossing should occur during your daily dental care routine. All that matters is that flossing is happening daily.
  • To effectively clean between your teeth, bring the tool up and down gently on both sides of every tooth (even your back teeth). If you’re using floss or a dental pick, form it into a c-shape along your tooth. Be sure to go down slightly into the area between your gums and teeth.
  • Remember that brushing and cleaning in between your teeth go hand-in-hand. Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day with a soft-bristled brush and toothpaste that contains fluoride.
  • Maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Avoid foods and beverages that are overly sugary or acidic.
  • Visit your dentist regularly and don’t hesitate to call your dental office if you have any questions or want advice on how to best establish healthy oral health habits.

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