Unfortunately, a vast majority of the population will admit to not flossing regularly and believe that brushing twice a day is enough to maintain their oral health. You may think if you brush your teeth and use mouthwash, your teeth are clean enough. But is that really the case? While brushing should be a necessary part of your oral hygiene routine, flossing is equally important in maintaining your oral health.
Why Should You Floss?
Brushing and flossing work to remove plaque and leftover food from your teeth. Though brushing will scrub at the surfaces, flossing will reach the in-between areas as well as underneath the gum line. If left untreated, the plaque will harden into tartar which can only be removed by a dentist. The accumulation of plaque and tartar in the mouth can lead to tooth decay, cavities, bad breath, and gum disease if left untreated.
No matter what toothbrush you use or how impressive the bristle design is, your toothbrush cannot clean in between your teeth or underneath the gum line. Your toothbrush cleans only the back and front of your teeth. If you aren’t flossing, there are two sides of every tooth you aren’t cleaning everyday.
How to Floss
- Pull out about 18 inches of floss, wrapping the ends around your fingertips for better control.
- Gently slide the floss between teeth, being careful not to apply too much pressure on the gums. Bleeding may occur if you haven’t flossed in some time and can be a sign of gum inflammation. As you continue to floss, the swelling in your gums should subside and no longer bleed. If bleeding persists, speak with your dentist.
- Curve the floss around each tooth and rub it up and down to scrape away plaque.
- Avoid sawing motions with the floss as this can irritate your gums, damage soft tissues, and cause bleeding.
- Remember to floss both sides of the teeth and gently beneath the gum line. We recommend spending about 10 seconds on each side.
- When you’re done, throw away the used floss and rinse your mouth.
What Kind of Floss Should I Use?
The type of floss you use often depends on your oral health needs and personal preference.
If you have widely spaced teeth, you may prefer a thicker floss compared to someone who may have a more crowded mouth.
We understand that flossing is a task that can be easier said than done. Some people find using dental floss difficult to navigate around their teeth or have a poor technique that can lead to bleeding and irritated gums. You have to be gentle, but firm enough to thoroughly clean. Finding that balance can be challenging, but thankfully we are here to help and can demonstrate various flossing types and methods. We will work with you to find the one that works best for your smile.
Alternative flossing tools that can help to make flossing easier include:
- Dental Tape- If your gums are sensitive, dental tape can be an ideal flossing method. Dental tape is an ultrathin floss and that is smooth, waxed, and spongy. This tape is thinner and wider than traditional floss allowing it to glide between teeth more easily.
- Floss Threaders- Floss threaders are tools that can speed up the traditional flossing process by helping pull floss between the brackets and wires.
- Interdental Brushes- Proxy brushes, or interdental brushes, are round/cone-shaped brushes with small bristles made of silicone or nylon held together by a wire. This flexible brush is designed to fit in-between your teeth and comes in a variety of sizes so that you can select the one (or ones) that work best for your teeth.
- Oral Irrigators- Oral irrigator, or water flossers, use a steady stream of water to clean between the teeth and along your gum line. Some brands of oral irrigators offer special tips for patients with orthodontic appliances that enable them to clean around brackets easier than the standard tips.
It is normal to feel some discomfort and notice bleeding when you first start to floss. After flossing regularly for a few weeks, your gums will feel better and the bleeding will stop. If you continue to experience discomfort, you may need to consult your dentist. For more information on flossing or to schedule an appointment, contact Leslie B. Anthony, DMD today.