Many patients question whether or not flossing is a necessary exercise. I mean they are already brushing twice a day (sometimes), for a full two minutes (or 30-40 seconds), and they use mouthwash! Wasn’t there a company stating using their mouthwash was almost as effective as flossing?
Well brushing and using mouthwash twice a day are wonderful practices, but nothing provides the same benefits as flossing. What is flossing? Flossing involves taking a thin filament of material and removing plaque and food debris from the sides of the teeth and underneath the gums. According to the American Dental Association, flossing should be executed as follows:
- Start with about 18 inches of floss. Wrap it around the middle finger of one hand, the rest around the other middle finger.
- Grasp the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers, and use a gentle shoeshine motion to guide it between teeth.
- When the floss reaches the gum line, form a C-shape to follow the contours of the tooth.
- Hold the floss firmly against the tooth, and move the floss gently up and down.
- Repeat with the other tooth, and then repeat the entire process with the rest of your teeth, “unspooling” fresh sections of floss as you go along.
When bacteria is left on the sides of your teeth and underneath your gums, it starts to build a sticky biofilm known as plaque. The plaque continues to metabolize carbohydrates, it excretes acid, and it breaks down tooth enamel which could lead to cavities. Such bacteria also harbors in your gums releasing odors that contribute to bad breath. The bacteria also causes inflammation in the gums and could lead to the gum condition known as periodontal disease. In periodontal disease, the gums pull away from the teeth forming spaces that become infected. Bacterial toxins and the body’s natural response to fighting the infection start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place. If left untreated, periodontal disease causes the bones, gums and tissue that support the tooth to be destroyed. The teeth involved may eventually become loose and have to be extracted.
So floss…what is it good for. Here are a few examples of just what flossing can do:
–Help eliminate gum disease, which has been shown to add 6.5 years to your life
–Prevent heart disease: people with periodontal disease are 2X more likely to develop heart disease
–Prevent low birth weight babies: expectant mothers with poor oral hygiene are 7X more likely to deliver premature or low birth weight babies
–Prevent diabetes: 95% of adults with diabetes also have periodontal disease
The more your floss, the easier it becomes. With the market flooded with floss picks and dental aids, flossing is as convenient as it’s ever been. Make time to floss today. It just might save your life.
Tip of the month: Do you feel too uncoordinated to floss? Floss picks allow you to clean the sides of your teeth while holding a handle and guiding the pick up and down. Once you get the hang of it, try traditional floss like CocoFloss! It allows you to easily manipulate the floss underneath your gums.