The Importance of Flossing

Building a Daily Habit

Most patients have brushing down as part of their daily oral hygiene routine. But many patients answer with, “not as much as I should” when asked how often they floss.  It sounds like most of our patients know they should floss daily, but many still do not. Knowing something is good for you and actually doing it is difficult if it is not a habit. Habits are things we do without deciding. You can improve your overall oral hygiene routine by creating a daily flossing habit that you do without even thinking about it!

The most important thing about flossing your teeth is to do it. As long as you do a thorough job, it doesn’t matter when. Pick a time of day when you can devote an extra couple of minutes to your dental care. People who are too tired at the end of the day may benefit from cleaning between their teeth first thing in the morning or after lunch. Others might like to go to bed with a clean mouth. Find what works best for you and stick to it! 

Parents, children need to clean between their teeth too! Start as soon as your child has two teeth that touch. Children are not usually able to do a thorough job on their own until age 10 or 11. Establishing a daily flossing practice early on will cause your child to learn the habit for life.

Benefits for Oral Hygiene

So why is flossing important? Inadequate oral hygiene contributes to two problems for the health of your mouth. First, it leaves food and bacteria behind, which can promote the progression of tooth decay. Second, it contributes to inflammation of the gums, which can cause gingivitis and eventual gum disease.

If flossing is not a part of your daily routine, plaque can harden into tartar. Tartar is a hard mineral deposit that forms on teeth and can only be removed through professional cleaning by a dental professional. The tartar traps bacteria and causes inflammation. When this happens, brushing and cleaning between teeth can become difficult. The gingival tissue can become tender, puffy, or swollen, and even bleed. This condition is called gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease.

Dental floss and other interdental cleaners help clean these hard-to-reach tooth surfaces and reduce the likelihood of gum disease and tooth decay. A meta-analysis of studies examining the impact of flossing found that regular (5 days per week) flossing resulted in a statistically significant reduction in interproximal caries. The use of an interdental cleaner (like floss) is an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reaffirmed flossing as a crucial oral hygiene practice in an August 2016 communication to the ADA.

Floss curved around a single tooth

Floss to Clean the Spaces Between

Keep in mind that cleaning between your teeth should not be painful. If you do it too hard, you could damage the tissue between your teeth. If you are too gentle, you might not be getting the food and plaque out. It is normal to feel some discomfort when you first start but don’t give up. With daily brushing and cleaning between your teeth, that discomfort should ease within a week or two. If your pain persists, please give us a call. 

Don’t forget to use the proper flossing technique: hug each side of the tooth by dragging the floss upward in the shape of a “C.” If traditional floss does not work for you, try a floss stick or Waterpik! There are many options available to suit your needs. Ask for more information or a sample at your next appointment!