The Benefits of Flossing
Dear Dental Floss,
I am truly sorry for what I am about to say … I can no longer hide the truth.
True confession. I forget to floss. I will floss faithfully for the week leading up to my dental appointment. And then, I will floss diligently for at least the entire week after my appointment.
Aaaand then I just forget. I completely forget to floss.
It’s true. And I am ashamed. My toothbrush literally does the walk of shame past my floss on a regular basis.
I know I should floss. I know it. Yet, I don’t do it.
Show of hands. Who flosses consistently every.single.day?
You, my friends, are brilliant. You are flossing like champions and truly caring for your teeth and gums.
As for the rest of us, we need to get a grip and start flossing regularly. I am about to explain exactly why it is important to floss on a daily basis.
But first, who originally thought it was a good idea to put a string in between the teeth? All the way back in 1815 Dr. Levi Spear Parmly developed the first form of floss that was widely used by people to clean between their teeth.
Dental floss has been around for over 200 years!
It wasn’t until 1882 that the idea of flossing caught the attention of a company for production. And by 1898, Johnson & Johnson had secured a patent on silk dental floss.
Over the years, dental floss has evolved and changed to include various materials that make it easier to fit between all types of teeth and to effectively floss while wearing braces.
Today, most dentists insist that we make flossing a part of our daily oral hygiene routine. Brush, floss, rinse. That’s how we keep our teeth and gums healthy.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
Why is it a good idea to use dental floss every day?
First, the bad news. There is no conclusive evidence proving that flossing your teeth will prevent you from getting cavities. Sorry, Charlie.
However, it is undeniable that flossing helps to prevent gum disease. Score for dental floss!
When you brush and floss on a regular basis, you are less likely to have gums that bleed. This also means having your teeth flossed by the dental hygienist should not result in bleeding gums because your mouth is already accustomed to flossing.
Should you choose not to floss, you will probably have food stuck between some of your teeth—if not all of your teeth. Food left on the teeth can often be somewhat rinsed away by drinking water. This is not the case for the food in between teeth. It is wedged in there.
You will need to use dental floss in between each tooth to remove the food particles and residue that rinsing and brushing cannot handle. Otherwise, that food leads to inflammation which eventually turns into gum disease, or it causes cavities in between the teeth. Often it means a cavity on each of the teeth touching the left over food particles.
Unfortunately, about 50% of the American population winds up with some form of gum disease, another name for periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a chronic condition in which the gums are inflamed.
Plaque bacteria that accumulates below the gum line and causes inflammation results in swelling and irritation which can then lead to receding gums or tooth loss. Gum disease is no joke.
It seems a little crazy to think about all the things to which periodontal disease has been linked. Here are just a few of the possible consequences linked to gum disease:
- Premature birth
- Heart disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Respiratory disease
There is no concrete, definitive answer as to why gum disease is linked to all of these health conditions. Many scientists have pondered the idea that the excess amount of bacteria sitting in your mouth eventually finds its way into the bloodstream.
The traveling of bacteria through the bloodstream is thought to also cause inflammation elsewhere in the body, such as the heart. For this reason, gum disease has been linked to inflammation in the heart.
Experts will not declare that gum disease is a direct cause of heart disease. However, the experts will tell you that people who have no gum disease are not as probable to have heart disease.
If you have chosen not to floss because you cannot find enough conclusive research in favor of it, you may be right. Definitive research is hard to find. However, your dentist will still suggest that you floss.
Do you know why most dentists will suggest that you floss? It is more than possible that it is because they have seen healthier gums and a lower occurrence of tooth loss. It just makes sense to floss.
Bacteria in your mouth can wreak havoc. It may damage your teeth and gums, cause horrible breath, and lead to gum disease. When bits of food are trapped between the teeth, they can act like magnets for bacteria. That turns into plaque and gives rise to tooth decay.
After the plaque sits, it hardens into unsightly tartar. That irksome tartar is unattractive and acts as an irritant to the teeth, harms the roots, and paves the way for major dental problems.
How do you make the most of your flossing routine?
- Make flossing your first step. What?! Most of us have learned this as brush, floss, rinse. But, nope! It is more beneficial to floss first. So change your routine to floss, brush, rinse.
Flossing before brushing every day may diminish the presence of plaque along your gums and on your teeth.
- Use the proper amount of floss. It is best to use a minimum of 18 inches of dental floss. You need enough floss to use a new section of floss in between each tooth and to reach all the way to the back teeth
- Floss every tooth surface with gentleness. Floss in between and around each and every tooth. Do not be aggressive with your floss! Your gums will not be happy if you do that. Use smooth movements because rough movements will cause your gums to bleed.
What are the different types of dental floss?
Folks, we have cinnamon, we have mint, or we have unflavored. Just kidding. We’ve come much further than just flavored dental floss.
Waxed floss: The traditional floss that most of us think of is waxed floss. It is made of a durable nylon string coated in wax to keep it from shredding. If you like the flavored floss, this may be the way to go. Unfortunately, if your teeth are very close together, this will not work for you.
Unwaxed floss: Several strands of fine nylon strings are wound together to create one, tiny string. The lack of wax makes it easier to slide between your teeth. The problem with unwaxed floss is the fraying and difficulty to handle for people without great dexterity.
Floss holder: Many people refer to this type of dental floss as “floss picks.” These are little plastic tools that have a short piece of floss stretched across them. While this type of floss is easier to use for people with poor dexterity, we do not suggest relying on it because it does not wrap around the tooth.
Super floss: This is bullet-proof floss that comes with a cape. Ha ha. Just kidding. It is actually a thicker dental floss designed specifically for people with larger gaps between their teeth.
Dental tape: This type of floss is pretty much what it sounds like—a thin, flat tape. It comes in the waxed or unwaxed varieties.
Charcoal floss: This is our personal favorite. The charcoal floss is a bamboo fiber floss with activated charcoal to absorb plaque as you clean your teeth and gums. Plus, it whitens between your teeth.
Pick the best floss for your teeth.
As we’ve just told you, there are different flavors of floss. As a matter of fact, you can even find cupcake-, bacon-, or pickle-flavored dental floss. For you Bieber fans, you can go online and find some Bieber floss.
You may have just considered yourself a floss-convert at the thought of bacon floss. (Ewww.) Sorry, Charlie. None of those are approved by the American Dental Association.
What type of teeth do you have? Are they close together, more gaps, oddly shaped? Use the floss that will work most advantageously with your teeth.
Choose floss that slips easily between your teeth when you have a mouth full of dental work or teeth fitted closely together. If your teeth happen to have more space between each tooth, try a thicker dental floss.
The proper way to floss
- Floss BEFORE you brush .
- Be sure to get a piece of floss that is at least 18”.
- Take hold of the floss with your first fingers and thumbs.
- Wind the used around your finger as you simultaneously unwind fresh floss from the opposite hand.
- Carefully hook the floss in the shape of a C around a single tooth.
- Glide the floss up, down, and around the entire surface of each tooth.
If you are unable to effectively floss your back teeth, you can try a water flosser. A water flosser will serve kind of like a tiny pressure washer for your teeth, washing away bacteria and plaque.
When you floss (and brush) your teeth every day, you are multiplying your chance of having healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime!