It may surprise you to learn that flossing is not an inherently natural skill. Hand a child a piece of floss, and it is NOT his first instinct to clean his teeth with it. At the dental office, we hear all the time that people hate flossing. As we, people who love flossing, consider this, we come up with two possible reasons people could hate to floss: 1) They do not understand its value, or 2) they do not do it correctly.
This blog will address both of those issues, and, hopefully, convince you that flossing is fabulous!
The Value of Flossing
A two-to-three month supply of floss costs around $2-3. This means you have to spend about $1 per month (or about $0.03 per day) on the material costs of flossing. Once you become skilled at flossing, you should be able to floss all of your teeth correctly in under three minutes.
So all of the benefits listed below are yours for only three cents and three minutes a day. We’d say that’s a pretty unbelievable value!
It’s all about the plaque!
Plaque is the soft sticky substance that builds up on the teeth. Plaque is made up of bacteria, food debris, and exfoliated tissue cells from the inside of the mouth. Since all of those things are in constant supply, plaque is constantly accumulating on the teeth, which is why we have to be consistent in brushing, flossing and rinsing to keep plaque away!
Flossing Prevents Cavities
For many people the bacteria present in their plaque is the kind that causes cavities. Plaque’s sticky consistency keeps this dangerous bacteria in constant contact with the enamel. Over time, the acid produced by the bacteria weakens and softens enamel, allowing the bacteria to break through and create a cavity.
Cleaning the plaque off of each tooth surface by flossing removes this harmful bacteria and stops it from creating cavities. Who doesn’t want LESS cavities?
Flossing Fights Gum Disease
In the same manner, the bacteria in plaque cause gum disease. The toxins produced by the bacteria induce an inflammatory response by the body. This leads to red, puffy, tender and bleeding gums (also called gingivitis). When left in place for too long, the plaque hardens into tartar (also called calculus), which cannot be removed with flossing.
Flossing removes the plaque, with its bacterial toxins and stops gingivitis in its tracks.
Flossing Keeps You OUT of the Dental Chair
Because flossing removes plaque and the dangerous bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease, it means you will need less dental work over your lifetime. We know that no one enjoys having dental work. It takes time out of your busy schedule. Many experience serious anxiety about having dental work. If you suffer from dental fear or anxiety, you should be flossing every single day because it will keep you out of those stressful situations!
Flossing Saves You Money
Not only is dental work stressful for some people. It is also relatively expensive. Preventing cavities means you don’t need expensive fillings and crowns. Preventing gum disease means you don’t need expensive deep cleanings and gum treatments. When you consider the fact that you could prevent the need for a $200 filling by spending three cents and three minutes a day, it makes flossing a lot more valuable!
Flossing Lowers Your Risk for Other Illnesses
Current scientific research shows a very strong link between dental disease and other illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. People who have heavy plaque buildup on their teeth are more likely to have heavy plaque buildup in their arteries. Patients with unchecked gum disease are at a higher risk for blocked arteries, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.
Plaque, and the body’s inflammatory response to it, also can cause an increase in blood sugar levels. This is extremely important for people with diabetes to understand. Plaque buildup makes it harder for you to control your blood sugar.
Flossing Freshens Your Breath
When people do not floss, food debris can remain in between the teeth indefinitely. You know what old food debris smells like? Your kitchen trash can! Consistently removing plaque and food debris with daily flossing leads to fresher breath.
Flossing Increases Your Lifespan
Because flossing removes plaque, which causes dental disease and contributes to other illnesses, flossing improves your lifespan. Scientists have not reached a definite number, but some studies show up to a six year increase in lifespan among regular flossers as compared to people who do not floss.
How You Might be Flossing Incorrectly
There are several wrong ways to floss. Are you making any of these mistakes?
Flossing only a few teeth
Do you have one or two areas that collect food during a meal? When you floss, is it only in those areas to remove the food? If so, you’re missing out on a great opportunity. Just keep going, flossing every spot where teeth touch. As the old dentist’s saying goes, “You only need to floss the teeth you want to keep!”
2. Flossing in a straight up-and-down motion
This is the most common mistake we see in flossing. Simply passing the floss through the contact between two teeth is NOT the point of it. The floss has to touch the side of the teeth (both teeth) in order to remove plaque. Snapping a piece of floss quickly between the teeth does not accomplish the whole purpose of flossing!
3. Flossing too aggressively
Flossing should not hurt. Many people snap the floss between the teeth so aggressively that they actually injure the gums. Remember: plaque is soft. It does not take a large amount of force to remove it.
*If your teeth touch so tightly that you have to push really hard to get the floss to pass between the teeth, talk to our experienced cosmetic dentists Dr. Ann & Dr. Lauren. They can help with tight contacts.
How to Floss Correctly
Learning to floss correctly is best achieved through an in-person demonstration, which our awesome hygienists Nancy and Phyllis are happy to give. If the following written explanation doesn’t make sense to you, call today to schedule a visit with Nancy and Phyllis.
Teeth are not flat or square. They have rounded edges everywhere. The best technique for flossing involves wrapping the floss around one side of the tooth in a “C” shape. Then you move the floss up and down, allowing it to touch that entire side of the tooth, removing any plaque from that side of the tooth.
Before moving on to another site, make sure to wrap the floss around the other tooth in that site, completing the same motion. Only then are you ready to remove the floss from between those teeth.
Is it hard for you to remove the floss once you’ve inserted it? If so, you can let go of the floss with one hand and pull straight out with the other hand. It does not have to go back out the way it went in!
Do You Have Flossing Questions? Or Want a Demo?
Call today to schedule a visit with our Drs. Ann and Lauren or our wonderful hygienists Nancy and Phyllis! We can answer all of your flossing questions and make sure you’re doing it correctly.