“Do I really need to floss?” It’s a question we field every day at TrueCare Dentistry, from patients both young and old. The answer? A resounding, “Yes!” We get it; flossing can be a drag. But it truly is very important for your health. And not just your oral health either—flossing offers protection that extends beyond your teeth and gums. What’s more, there are tons of new gadgets out there to make flossing less of a chore, so there is really no excuse not to do it. But you’ve heard all this before, so let’s take a deeper dive into the mechanics of flossing, how it helps, how to do it right, and what to use to get the job done.
What Happens When You Floss?
Those who ask, “Do I really need to floss?” have likely never gotten up close and personal with plaque the way we do. Plaque is some pretty gross stuff, but there’s no way to simply avoid it. It’s going to develop in your mouth no matter what, because it’s a side effect of eating. Plaque is made up of active colonies of harmful bacteria, which, as Healthline so daintily puts it, “basically eats and then excretes on our teeth.” Yuck!
So, can’t you just brush it away? Well, yes, partly, you can. That’s why brushing is so important. But believe or not, flossing is even more critical, because it can reach into places even the fanciest toothbrushes can’t. Between your teeth and along the gumline, plaque is wreaking havoc, silently causing your gums to become diseased and inflamed.
Gum Disorders Caused by Plaque Buildup
Plaque is the leading cause of gum disorders, so if you don’t floss regularly, you risk developing some scary health conditions:
Gingivitis: The less serious of the two gum diseases, gingivitis is a common and milder form of periodontal disease that causes irritation, redness, and swelling of the gingiva, which is the part of your gum around the base of your teeth. Gingivitis can lead to much more serious gum disease and tooth loss if not treated (source: Mayo Clinic). If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, feel tender, or are receding (pulling away from your teeth), see your dentist or periodontist promptly, as these are signs of gingivitis. Without treatment, irreversible bone and tissue damage can occur.
Periodontitis: If symptoms of gingivitis are ignored, periodontitis can occur. In a person with periodontitis, the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth and form pockets. These areas can collect food and debris, which can cause infection. What’s more, plaque begins to spread and grow below the gum line. Bad breath is common. Over time, teeth begin to loosen as the pockets deepen, ultimately causing tooth loss. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults (source: WebMD).
Your gums and teeth may be able to be restored with surgeries like bone and soft-tissue grafts, but who really wants to resort to these options? Prevention is truly the best form of treatment. It’s important to note that even if your gums and teeth can be repaired, periodontitis is a serious disease, and it can affect your overall health. Research suggests it is associated with health problems like cardiovascular disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and stomach cancer.
How to Floss Properly
Now that you know how important flossing is for your health, let’s review how to do it correctly. Here are some best practices:
- Floss once a day, in the evening, after brushing.
- Use 18 inches of floss and wind it around each of your middle fingers.
- Wrap the floss in a c-shape around each tooth and cover as much surface area as possible.
- Slide the floss gently up and down between each tooth along the outer surfaces and down below the gum line.
- Use clean sections of floss as you go from tooth to tooth.
- After flossing, rinse well with water or mouthwash to flush away all the debris you loosened.
Dentist-Approved Flossing Devices
String floss is still the gold standard for flossing, but if you prefer, you can use these other devices:
- Floss pick: This is a small plastic tool with a curved end that holds a piece of dental floss. There is often a plastic pick at the other end that can be used to remove large food particles.
- Interdental brush: A small brush designed to clean between teeth, where a regular brush cannot reach, this brush is great for bridges, crowns, and braces.
- Powered air flosser: An effective means of cleaning, this electronic device uses a jet of compressed air combined with mouthwash or water to power away food particles and debris between teeth.
- Powered water flosser: Also known as an oral irrigator, a water flosser uses pulsed jets of water to disturb plaque between teeth.
Start Flossing Today!
Now that you know the answer to the question, “Do I really need to floss?” what do you think? Can you take a single minute out of your day (really, that’s all it takes!) to tackle this task? We hope you can now say, “Yes!” If you ever feel like skipping your bedtime routine, simply look in the mirror, smile, and remember that flossing is essential to keeping your teeth in place, your smile beautiful, and your body healthy!
Do you have questions about flossing? Are you concerned about gum health? If so, give TrueCare Dentistry a call and set up a consultation. We can give you a primer on proper flossing technique, evaluate your gum health, and provide treatment or refer you to a periodontist if necessary.
Exceptional Is Not Uncommon
At TrueCare Dentistry, you will experience exceptional dental care that is focused on maximum patient comfort. We offer the best chair-side manner from check-in to check-out. Contact us for an appointment or to learn more: 919.859.1330