You've heard it from us and you've probably heard it from your dentist: there is no substitute in your oral hygiene routine for flossing your teeth. Food and plaque that get trapped in between two touching teeth and are not removed through thorough brushing and flossing harden into calculus and tartar, which can lead to gum disease and tooth decay.
You know it’s important, so why put it off? Several common excuses (and the reasons they aren’t valid arguments) include:
- I already brush every day, I don’t need to floss too. Even avid brushers are at risk to develop cavities in between their teeth if they haven’t made a habit out of flossing. It simply reaches the places your toothbrush cannot get to.
- I don’t get food stuck between my teeth. Even though you might not feel pieces of food stuck between your teeth, flossing is critical to your oral health. Just as important as removing visible food particles is cleaning out the plaque that adheres to all surfaces of your teeth. Eliminating plaque daily helps prevent dental caries and wards off gingivitis.
- I don’t know how to properly floss. The ADA recommends following these steps to floss most successfully:
- Use about 18 inches of floss. Wrap it around the middle fingers of both hands, with the majority of the string on one finger.
- Use your thumb and index fingers to pinch the one to two inch section of floss you will use to guide between your teeth. Keep the floss taut. (Your thumbs will help direct floss between your upper teeth and your index fingers will guide the floss for your lower teeth.)
- Glide the floss in between your teeth using gentle up and down motions. DO NOT snap the floss in between your teeth or into the gums.
- When you reach the gum line, pull the floss into a c shape against tight your tooth and carefully slide the floss up under the gum line.
- Wind the dirty/used floss around the middle finger with less string on it and unwind a new, clean one to two inch section from the unused floss wrapped around your other middle finger.
- Repeat this process (using a clean length of floss) for each tooth. Don’t forget the back side of your last molar.
- I don’t have enough coordination to floss right. If you have trouble reaching the back of your mouth or manipulating floss effectively, there are special flossing tools that can help make the process easier. A few examples include: interdental brushes, Y-flossers, floss threaders, or water flossers. Talk to your dentist about which device will best meet your needs. These tools can also be implemented when your teeth are too close together or you are wearing braces or wires that require extra maneuvering to efficiently floss around.
- It hurts to floss. Flossing should not be a painful experience. Irritated or bleeding gums after flossing could mean that you are not being gentle enough with your technique, or that you may have gingivitis or Periodontitis. Dr. Mark S. Wolff, DDS, PhD says that, in the case of gum disease, “…stopping flossing because of bleeding (or pain) is just the opposite of what you should be doing.” In most cases, gum sensitivity will decrease after two weeks of consistent and thorough brushing and flossing. If it doesn't, you should talk to your dentist about this problem.
Are you guilty of using any of these excuses? If so, you now have the answers to your questions and explanation why justifying a skip in your flossing habits is detrimental to your oral health! When you floss, whether that be morning or evening, or before or after brushing is not as critical as regularly doing it. Decide on a time of the day that is most convenient for you and commit a few extra minutes to your dental hygiene routine for flossing. Your teeth, gums and hygienist will thank you for making the effort to floss consistently and effectively.