We all have heard we need to brush our teeth twice a day and floss them. But I have a friend that has decided to elaborate on that a bit for us. She knows what she is talking about more than most for sure. Hopefully this will shed a bit of light on flossing your teeth for you. I am just going to quote it from her to you:
Here is an interesting exchange I had with a patient not too long ago. I’m getting ready to start a cleaning after completing my examination. His gums are red (he has gingivitis), there is plaque visible, and I just know those gums will bleed when I start to clean them. I’d like to help him get this under control, but I suspect he doesn’t floss, so I ask “Do you floss?”
His answer: “Whenever I need to.”
I’m thinking: “That would be, like, EVERY DAY.” But instead I ask: “How often is that?”
He replies: “Whenever food becomes noticeably stuck between my teeth.”
I’m actually detecting just a little annoyance now, and then he says: “Yeah, every dentist I have ever been to mentions the flossing thing.” Well, I suppose I could talk about his favorite color, or maybe something equally inane, like the weather — but somehow the ‘flossing thing’ seemed appropriate. And then it occurred to me, maybe that IS “flossing” for this guy. And how many others, I wondered?
Therefore, in my quest to help rid the world of gingivitis and periodontal disease, (which just may be the shared goal of “every other dentist” who has recommended flossing) I’d like to clarify a few points about what it is and what it isn’t. While floss is unquestionably effective at removing food particles from between your teeth, just picking out the occasional chunk of steak from between your teeth doesn’t classify as “flossing.”
Flossing involves taking a piece of floss – say, about eighteen inches or so – grasping it between your thumb and index finger (just a few inches apart), then holding it in a “C” shape against the side of your tooth. Pre-threaded flossers are just fine in my opinion. Use whatever you are most comfortable with and whatever will get you to floss regularly. Rub the floss up and down the sides of every tooth. You actually want to slide the floss under the gum line just slightly. This cleans out areas your toothbrush cannot effectively reach. You can also ask your dentist to demonstrate for you.
Imagine not cleaning some parts of your teeth – ever. Or maybe, you just clean some teeth and not others. Do you think the unclean teeth might become more subject to tooth decay? If you answered “Yes!” then you would be right. This is exactly what occurs when you don’t floss. The parts of the teeth that are in contact with each other never get brushed. It’s not physically possible. So, a sizeable portion of the damage I see, winds up being between the teeth. This is so easily helped . . . floss!
If you are just beginning to floss, you can expect your gums to bleed. Don’t let this ‘freak you out.’ A number of patients have said to me over the years “I tried flossing but it made my gums bleed, so I quit.” No. Bacteria, gingivitis, and nutritional deficiencies made your gums bleed. Flossing will help. You just need to stick with it until you notice less and less bleeding. It is important to have your teeth and gums examined regularly. While gingivitis and periodontal disease are bad enough, there are a few even more serious conditions that could contribute to bleeding gums.
I actually could go on for quite a while about the many benefits to your overall health that flossing brings, but I’ll spare you for now. Or shall we just talk about the weather? Flossing is vital to a healthy smile. The American Dental Association recommends brushing teeth twice daily and cleaning in between the teeth with floss or another device daily. Wearing braces can make the process of flossing take a little longer, but the benefits of flossing are worth the time. Floss threaders can assist with flossing while wearing braces. Once this small change is integrated into the oral care routine, it becomes second nature.
Some people ask about the equipment they need for flossing. The tools needed for flossing are minimal. Obviously, floss or some other type of interdental cleaner is needed. Several different companies manufacture floss threaders. A floss threader is essentially a loop of floss that has a stiff end. A piece of dental floss is placed through the loop in the floss threader and the threader is used to guide floss under braces or other dental appliances in the mouth.
Plaque is a film on the teeth and gums that is made up of bacteria. In addition to brushing, flossing helps physically remove plaque buildup and food particles trapped between teeth. When wearing braces, there are even more areas for food particles to become trapped. Appropriate tooth brushing and diligent flossing can help prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease. The bacteria on the teeth and gums that contribute to plaque formation are the main player in the process of tooth decay. The bacteria flourish in an environment when provided with sugar as a food source. Acid is produced by the bacteria as sugar is broken down. The result is damage to the enamel of the teeth from the acid. Tooth decay occurs in both children and adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fluoridation of water can reduce tooth decay in children by 18-40%.
Oral hygiene is the other key factor in the reduction of tooth decay. Protection of an investment like braces involves a commitment of both time and money for the goal of a functional, attractive smile. Skipping the flossing component of oral hygiene can predispose someone to periodontal disease or cavities. Improving a smile, but not taking care of it is contradictory. Even more time and money may be needed to fix problems related to lack of proper oral hygiene if flossing is neglected. Although it may take a little more time to floss when wearing braces, it is very important to consistently perform this component of oral hygiene.