Flossing: How Important Is Flossing to You?

Many people hate flossing. Why? Well, for some people, taking out a piece of floss, wrapping it around their index and middle fingers, placing it between two teeth, and then moving it to remove food or dental plaque can be too much of a process. There are easier options to clean between the teeth like dental flossers, toothpicks, interdental brushes and even battery-powered or electrical flossing devices.

Regardless of the method, if you're someone who just doesn't like flossing or you don't fully understand it, it's crucial to remember why flossing is an important part of a healthy smile.

What Are the Facts?

Recently, the Associated Press has reported that "there's little proof that flossing works." This is a bold statement to make to the public, dental professionals and oral care companies who make dental floss. This report claims that there is no scientific research out there that proves flossing helps prevent gum disease and cavities. However, published research in the Journal of Dental Hygiene shows that flossing and tooth brushing will help reduce gingivitis at one, three and six months, but not reduce plaque at one or three months.

So what does this flossing news mean to you?

The Downfalls of Not Flossing

When you don't floss, you're at risk for two major dental issues in your mouth: Gingivitis, and cavities between your teeth. Without flossing, you are not able to remove dental plaque buildup. According to Clinical Microbiology Reviews, there are over 1,000 bacteria in dental plaque. These bacteria can irritate the gum tissue, causing it to become red and inflamed and bleed easily, which breeds more bacteria and causes gingivitis to occur.

Another risk of not flossing is that cavities are more likely to form between your teeth. The same dental plaque that causes gingivitis can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria that will destroy the enamel between your teeth, consequently forming a cavity.

Oral Health and Overall Health

Gingivitis, if left untreated, can progress to periodontal disease. According to the Anaerobe Journal, the bacteria from periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of your body like your heart and respiratory tract. Periodontal disease has also been linked to diabetes and can contribute to the risk of low birth weight in newborn babies. An easy way to reduce your risk of other serious side effects from periodontal disease, however, is by practicing optimal oral hygiene at home, which includes flossing and tooth brushing.

Conducting Great Oral Hygiene

You should floss at least once a day, the best time being right before you go to bed to remove any food and plaque from between the teeth and along the gumline. Flossing should be done with waxed floss, as it won't shred between the teeth.

Use a soft-bristle toothbrush at least twice daily with an antimicrobial toothpaste to remove plaque, reduce gingivitis, prevent cavities and provide your mouth with an overall clean healthy feeling.

So, when you see that container of dental floss at your bathroom sink, be motivated to start flossing and help prevent dental diseases from occurring in your mouth!

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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How to FLOSS

  1. Pull 18 to 24 inches of dental floss from the floss dispenser.

  2. Wrap the ends of the floss around your index and middle fingers.

  3. Hold the floss tightly around each tooth in a C shape; move the floss back and forth in a push-pull motion and up and down against the side of each tooth.

How to BRUSH

  1. Place the toothbrush at a 45°angle along the gum line. Move the toothbrush in a back and forth motion, and repeat for each tooth.

  2. Brush the inside surface of each tooth, using the same back and forth technique.

  3. Brush the chewing surface (top) of each tooth.

  4. Use tip of brush to brush behind each tooth — front and back, top and bottom and up and down strokes.

  5. Be sure to brush your tongue to remove odor-causing bacteria.