Stop making excuses and start flossing!

Updated August 19, 2016

Do you floss regularly? How many times a day do you floss? Flossing is the activity of taking a piece of dental string and placing it between your individual teeth to remove any leftover particles of food or plaque that have become trapped between your teeth, within your gums, and behind your molars. Flossing is a critical portion of your oral health. It should be done on a daily basis to keep your teeth in good condition.

For complete oral health, you have to floss regularly. Brushing alone will not remove the stubborn plaque and leftover food that lingers between teeth and under the gum line.

We all know how important it is to floss and we're reminded by our dentist every time we visit. So why is it that such a large majority of people continually neglect this vital part of oral health? Brushing twice a day is as natural a habit as eating breakfast or falling asleep, but flossing never seems to form part of a daily routine for many people.

Unfortunately, people gravitate to activities that give them instant gratification. While brushing gives you smooth, clean teeth, flossing, unless you have a popcorn hull or piece of meat stuck in your teeth, do not give any immediate results. People already have time constraints in their daily lives, the last thing they want to do is add an activity that they don’t think is helping. But flossing is helping even if you do not see instant results.

Why is Flossing so Important?

While a toothbrush can clean the tops and outer faces of teeth, it can't penetrate through the tight gaps between teeth and isn't effective at the gum/tooth interface. This allows an opportunity for food to stick to these areas that are never or rarely cleaned leading to the development of tartar. Mouthwash plays its role in killing bacteria that leads to plaque formation, but it still doesn't provide the same interdental clean as flossing.

If the sticky, bacterial ridden plaque remains undisturbed in these areas, it will eventually lead to the formation of tartar (a thick, brownish residue). Your soft bristled brush won't be able to remove tartar and your only option is to have your dentist scrape off the substance. Bad breath and yellowing teeth will be the least of your worries, as the build-up of tartar can cause serious issues such as gum disease, loss of teeth and possibly even partial removal of the jaw bone. What's worse, the harmful bacteria that breed in an unhealthy mouth has the potential to lead to life threatening diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

How to Floss Properly

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends flossing before you brush as it gives a much more thorough clean. Fluoride found in toothpaste stops bacterial spread, but only to the surfaces it comes in contact with. As flossing removes the plaque from between teeth and down at the gum level, the fluoride in your toothpaste is much more effective as it reaches areas that were previously covered. With that in mind, the following steps outline the correct technique for flossing.

  1. Cut a length of floss about 18 inches in length
  2. Wrap floss around each middle finger and leave about 2 inches for flossing
  3. Pinch the middle flossing area between thumb and middle finger at both ends
  4. Gently slide the floss up and down between your teeth and also slightly below the gum line
  5. Repeat for the gap between each tooth using a fresh section of floss each time

For those of us that are too clumsy to manage regular floss, invest in floss picks—they hold the floss for you! They're a little less effective because they do not allow you to reach all of the same angles as regular floss, but if you're not currently flossing, something is better than nothing!

For individuals that do not like the way dental string feels in between your teeth, there is hope for you. There is another product on the market that works just as well as dental floss called Stim-U-Dent. Stim-U-Dent is a plaque remover that comes as a wooden stick. You place the wood between your teeth just like you would with floss. The difference is that it is a little larger, so it doesn’t slip as much as the dental string. Stim-U-Dent is approved by the American Dental Association (ADA) as assisting in preventing and lessening gingivitis when used as directed.

You Need to Floss!

Flossing is just as important to add and maintain your daily routine as going to the gym, your skin care regimen, taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and having a morning coffee. You only get one set of chompers in this life, and you want to take the best care of them for as long as you possibly can. The best way to take care of cavities, tooth pain, and other oral structure issues is to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Prevention is always the best cure. Taking the time to floss and complete your oral hygiene routine will pay huge dividends later in life. When you neglect your oral health, dental treatments become progressively more expensive as issues such as gum disease, tooth decay and tooth loss develop. 

Flossing can be done by everyone. Children, adults, and the elderly can floss their teeth on a daily basis. Children as early as three can have a parent floss their teeth. If that proves to be too time-consuming or too much of a battle, you can strive to floss their teeth twice a week. Make a game out of it and give them stickers when they have flossed to put on a chart. Once they reach a certain point on their wall chart, they can get a prize for doing such a good job with their flossing. It encourages them about the importance of oral health as well as puts it into their daily routine so it will stick with them for life.

Regular flossing is a proactive solution which will save on expensive dentistry work and all the associated pain and discomfort. Keep your smile beautiful and form the habit of flossing by leaving the floss box beside your toothbrush for a daily reminder!



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