We all know that we are supposed to floss our teeth, but why?
The short answer is too keep our teeth and gums healthy so we don’t lose our teeth. For most people, brushing alone does not keep teeth clean enough to prevent cavities where they touch, or gums healthy enough to prevent gum disease and the related bone loss that makes your teeth painful and loose and at risk of falling out.
How can I tell if I need to floss or if I’m flossing enough?
Everyone with teeth needs to floss them because toothbrushes can’t reach every surface of a tooth. You wouldn’t wash the hood, roof, and trunk of your car but skip the doors and sides, would you? But that’s the oral equivalent of what happens when you brush but don’t floss – the sides of your teeth where they touch each other never get clean. That leads to a buildup of bacteria-containing plaque that causes tooth decay and inflamed gums that bleed. Healthy gums do not bleed.
What should I do if my gums are bleeding?
If your gums are bleeding when you brush or floss, you should start flossing twice a day for a few weeks to see if there is improvement. If not, schedule an appointment with a hygienist at ImmediaDent so that we can determine if you have developed gum infection (gingivitis) or a more advanced gum disease (periodontitis)
How does flossing prevent gum disease and bone and tooth loss?
If you don’t floss, the areas between your teeth and underneath your gums begin to accumulate bacteria-containing plaque. The bacteria in the plaque produce acids that change the chemistry of your mouth, leading to the development of tooth decay, gum infection and disease. And gum disease leads damage to the structures in your mouth that support your teeth. Flossing breaks up and removes the plaque and bacterial film on your teeth and stops the cycle of gum disease and bone loss.
When do I definitely need to see the hygienist or dentist about the condition of my gums?
The ADA strongly recommends that you see your hygienist regularly for a professional cleaning. At this time, your hygienist and doctor will evaluate your gum condition for any disease or bone recession and can immediately begin treatment of the condition.
Gum disease often causes no pain or visual signs other than gum bleeding or redness. There may not be obvious signs of problems until the disease is very advanced and your teeth are in danger. When gum disease progresses to an advanced state, teeth may be painful and loose, and restoring the gums to health becomes more and more unlikely if left untreated. That’s when you will be at risk of tooth loss.
The good news is that regular flossing and dental checkups make sure gum disease doesn’t develop, or can be stopped before you are at risk of losing teeth.
How to floss your teeth:
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), it doesn’t matter if you floss before or after you brush, or in the morning or evening.
Click here for a PDF from The American Dental Association on flossing, which includes these tips:
- Use about 18 inches of floss wound around one of your middle fingers, with the rest wound around the opposite middle finger.
- Hold the floss tightly between the thumbs and forefingers and gently insert it between the teeth.
- Curve the floss into a “C” shape against the side of the tooth.
- Rub the floss gently up and down, keeping it pressed against the tooth. Don’t jerk or snap the floss.
- Floss all your teeth. Don’t forget to floss behind your back teeth.
Do I have to use string floss?
The ADA says that most flossing alternatives are just as effective as string floss. Floss picks or sticks are great choices if they make it easier for you to floss regularly. Interdental brushes can be helpful, too.
Some of us at ImmediaDent keep floss picks in our purses and cars so we can floss on the go.
At what age should children start flossing?
As soon as a child has two teeth that touch, they should begin flossing. The two bottom middle teeth usually come in around 5 – 7 months. At this age they need help flossing, but this is a great way to start a lifelong habit.
Ask your ImmediaDent hygienist or dentist for more explanation, or for help in proper flossing techniques. We are dedicated to safely eliminating dental disease!