If you are brushing your teeth twice a day as recommended but not flossing between them, it’s not just your smile that will pay the price. Your toothbrush can’t reach in between teeth to remove dental plaque (a sticky bacterial biofilm). That’s where flossing comes in, because it can reach between teeth and below the gum line where bacteria accumulates to stop it in its tracks.
This harmful bacteria leads to cavities and periodontitis (inflamed, bleeding and receding gums) from bacterial infection. Without flossing those crucial areas around your teeth, your toothbrush will only be cleaning three out of five tooth surfaces! Brushing and flossing work together to clean all tooth surfaces and flossing is the only way to actually scrape plaque away from the teeth.
If you have an infection inside your mouth, it will spread to the rest of your body through your bloodstream. Your teeth, gums, cheeks and tongue are all connected to your bloodstream where they can spread to your organs, potentially leading to diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, arthritis and Alzheimer’s.
Flossing is a key part of your daily oral hygiene routine that helps keep your smile and your body healthy. Flossing only needs to take around a minute of your time, so all you need to do is find a flossing tool that you like using and then just do it every day. Here are some flossing ideas to help you make the most out of your flossing efforts.
Flossing with Dental Floss
Take out about 18 to 24 inches of floss and wind it around your middle fingers. Take 1 to 2 inches and hold the floss taut between your thumbs and your index fingers. Next, slide the floss gently between each tooth. Be gentle while flossing to protect your gums. Keep sliding the floss up and down to clean plaque out of those areas. Floss right below your gum line in an up-and-down movement, rubbing it against both sides of each tooth. Avoid gliding the floss into your gums, and after you have cleaned one side of your mouth, pull out a new section of floss so you can clean the other side of your mouth.
If working with dental floss isn’t your thing, you still have flossing options to choose from!
- Tiny interdental brushes clean between your teeth and work really well on removing plaque from dental bridges and are great for people with joint issues or mobility issues.
- Pointed rubber tips or wooden plaque removers that you slide back and forth to loosen debris.
- Water flossers/irrigators that shoot a thin, pressurized stream of water between your teeth and at the gum line.
- Pre-threaded flossing picks to help you scrape away food particles and plaque.
Who Should Floss?
Everyone! But flossing every day is especially important if you have abnormally tight spaces in between your teeth or you have individual dental prostheses like dental implants, bridges, crowns, dentures or dental veneers. Getting your teeth straightened with an orthodontic appliance, whether it’s braces or a clear aligner, also requires diligent flossing. You want to make sure dental plaque doesn’t build up and leave you with tooth and gum issues when the orthodontic treatment is complete.
When to Floss
Ideally, you want to floss before brushing your teeth because flossing helps pick up and release food and plaque that is stuck in between your teeth, while brushing removes these particles from your mouth. If you brush first and floss afterward, the food particles and plaque will remain until your next brushing session.
The American Dental Association encourages everyone to floss at least once a day and brush twice a day. Follow these flossing tips and the next time you come in for a routine dental cleaning and exam, your hygienist will be proud! We look forward to helping you have better oral for better overall health!