Every time we come in for our dental visit, the dentist or the hygienist will stress the importance of flossing. But most patients simply listen in one ear and then the message goes out the other.  The reason for this may be that there is no instant gratification from flossing. Patients don’t feel that it does anything.

WHAT EXACTLY DOES FLOSSING DO?

But flossing does about 40% of the work required to mechanically remove plaque from teeth.  The build up of plaque creates acids, causing tooth decay and leading to gum disease.  The use of floss is the only thing that can really get into that space between the teeth and remove bacteria.  Many times people who brush well, but do not floss, get decay between teeth.  This decay can only be seen in x-rays as they are not apparent when glancing in a mirror or seeing someone head on.  Flossing can also keep a youthful appearance to your smile.  Gum disease can ruin the aesthetics of your smile by eating away at gums and teeth. It also attacks the bones that support your teeth and the lower third of your face. People who preserve the height of that bone by flossing look better as they age.

WHAT TYPE OF FLOSS SHOULD YOU USE?

There are many types of floss available commercially.  Buy the one that you will use.  Some floss are thin and are better for people with tight spaces. Some floss are flat and wide and are better for people with wider gaps in their teeth.  Some floss have wax or are Teflon coated to help he floss squeeze in between tight spaces.  There are other floss that look more like pipe cleaners and have a wide brush-like quality to them.  This type of floss helps clean under bridges or between really wide gaps. And don’t forget … there are pre-packaged floss holders that can be used if your hand dexterity is compromised.

HOW DO I FLOSS?

Use a piece of floss around the length of your arm.  Wrap the floss around each hand’s ring finger to take up the slack. Use your index finger to guide the floss between your teeth.  Wrap the floss around the sides of the tooth forming a “C” shape with the floss.  Slide the floss up and down taking debris out from between the teeth.  If you gums bleed don’t worry about it. This is a condition known as gingivitis.  It just means that the gum is irritated and inflamed caused by debris between your teeth.  Improved hygiene, including proper brushing, will reduce the bleeding over time.   Know that continued gum bleeding, or even spontaneous bleeding from the gums, is a sign of periodontal disease and needs to be addressed differently than gingivitis.

ANY MORE QUESTIONS?

The more you floss, the more you will realize how much you need to continue flossing.  Everything simply feels much cleaner once debris from between the teeth is removed on a regular basis.  If you have more questions about flossing please consult your dental professional.  They will be able to address your questions specifically.

If you liked this article, and wish to further your understanding of your own dental health, check out another of our articles What is Periodontal Disease and Why Does it Matter?