Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 12-07-2021
Some of our Milton patients out-and-out ask us this question, while others suffer in silence about this tedious task. However, we wouldn’t recommend flossing if we didn’t think it was necessary. Although you can pat yourself on the back for being a dedicated and even expert brusher, flossing adds that extra step that completes your daily oral hygiene routine.
If you think you don’t really need to floss despite us being adamant that you should, consider these following facts to help encourage you to do so regularly.
Flossing is Not So Passe
We think that around 2016 rumours began to surface that the whole flossing thing was nothing more than a myth. There was some excitement (if you consider the prospect of oral hygiene exciting, that is) that flossing was not as effective as once thought. This was a click-worthy story that made the rounds online, but it really is an unfounded claim. To help bring you back down to earth, brushing alone means you are missing 35% of the surfaces your toothbrush can’t reach. It is physically impossible for your brush to get between your teeth, especially if they are very close together.
According to the American Dental Association, flossing gets between your teeth where plaque likes to hang out and cause tooth decay and gum disease. So, before you use these web whispers of gossip as an excuse to bail on flossing, stick to the facts and believe dental professionals when we say, just floss already!
Without Flossing Bad Things Happen
As already mentioned, only flossing can reach the areas your toothbrush can’t. These are the spots in your mouth where not only plaque can build up, but that also likes to harbour things like food particles and bacteria. So, you are putting your teeth and gums at risk by allowing this nasty debris and those tiny life forms to help plaque turn into tartar.
While you can remove some plaque by brushing and flossing, only professional cleanings can pick away at that troublesome tartar, which is harder than plaque. This is the stuff that nightmares are made of in dental terms, as it is a major irritant to your gums and which leads to inflammation.
When left unchecked, inflammation turns to gum disease and, in turn, you can then experience issues from receding gums to teeth sensitivity and bone loss to out-and-out infections. Infections mean pus in your mouth, which you may swallow.
Let’s not forget those pesky cavities. If you don’t get rid of debris and plaque between your teeth, then you increase risk of enamel erosion that leads to cavities. The deeper the cavities, the more painful they are, and the more costly and complicated they can become to repair. As well, if left to progress, you might even need a root canal or develop an abscess, which means, you guessed it, more pus!.
Bad Flossing Is Almost as Bad as Not Flossing At All
If you floss and are reading this in the hopes you actually don’t have to, then keep this scary thought in mind: you might be flossing, but you might also be doing it wrong.
In order for flossing to be effective, you have to do it correctly. The next time you’re at your dental office, ask for a demonstration to learn the right technique. Meanwhile, follow these steps to improve your moves:
- Use enough floss: You need a good length of about 45 cm to do the job right. You’re probably thinking that we must own stocks in some floss companies to suggest using so much, but there is a method to our madness. You need to have enough to hold the floss well between your thumb and index fingers at either end and then wrap it around your fingers a bit, so you don’t lose the thread as you work.
- Be gentle(ish): You don’t want to be so aggressive that you make your gums bleed, but you do need to be able to slide the floss between your teeth. You want to get right to the bottom to get any gunk stuck down there.
- Work in sections: Work your way through your teeth however you prefer. Do all the tops first and then the bottoms, or do a section at a time first on the right, then on the left. Just be certain you are reaching every tooth as you work.
- Loop and clean: Last, loop the floss over the tooth on each side, and move the floss up and down a few times to get every surface. Then, toss that strand out immediately. Never reuse floss, ever.
The American Dental Association suggests flossing at least once a day. Do it after brushing to get anything missed, and then enjoy a nice rinse and spit to clear everything away.
Avoiding Flossing Due to Bleeding
If you are avoiding flossing due to discomfort or excessive bleeding, this is actually a good idea. You don’t want to cause further irritation. However, and this is very important, the moment you start spotting blood, whether you are flossing or brushing, you need to call our office. Bleeding gums are a sign of gingivitis, and when caught early you can prevent gum disease from progressing.
Honestly, if your gums do bleed, this is a sign that your oral hygiene could use some work, and we can provide tips to improve your technique. The better you become at your home oral hygiene regime, the healthier your teeth and gums will be, and the less chance of bleeding and discomfort when flossing.
Help! Flossing Makes Me Gag
Okay, we hear you on this. Some people have a more sensitive gag reflex than others, and things like flossing can be a trigger. However, there are other tools available that might be better suited to your needs. For example, an interdental brush can do wonders at reaching little spaces between your teeth.
As well, speak to our team, as we can offer some suggestions such as:
- Water flossing
- Dental picks
- Pre-threaded floss
- Soft picks
All of these options make it easier to get the same flossing benefits without sticking your hands in your mouth.
There Are Too Many Types of Floss to Choose From
This is a fair point, as there really are way too many types of floss available. However, according to the American Dental Association, you can use the one you feel most comfortable with. Some prefer a thin strand, while others like something thicker. Some people like a minty fresh floss, while others are fine with unflavoured options. The key is to find the one you enjoy using the most so you can be more likely to floss more often. Even if you floss just once a day, preferably at night, you’ll enjoy the benefits it offers for your dental health and smile.