Health & Wellbeing
JAM | May 7, 2023

Flossing your teeth is equally as important as brushing

Candice Stewart

Candice Stewart / Our Today

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Thinking of ways to improve your health and self care routine? Consider adding the use of dental floss as part of your oral care regimen. It is often overlooked and thought that just brushing your teeth and tongue is sufficient. However, there is much more to be done that flossing can address.

Brushing at least two times daily for at least two minutes each time is the first step in keeping your teeth and gums healthy. However, the best toothbrush cannot single handedly fully cleanse the spaces between your teeth. That is why dentists recommend that you floss at least once a day to remove food particles and plaque, the sticky film on your teeth that can lead to cavities and gum disease.

Plaque contains cavity-causing bacteria that feed on leftover food in your mouth. These bacteria love sugary substances and as they feast on them, they produce acids that can harm the shiny, protective surface of your teeth, setting the stage for tooth decay.

Plaque that isn’t cleansed away by brushing or flossing can harden into a rough substance called tartar or calculus. Not to be confused with math, tartar builds up along your gumline, which can lead to gum disease. Once that forms, only your dentist can remove it, but flossing every day can prevent plaque buildup.

The importance of flossing cannot be stressed enough. Daily flossing doesn’t just keep your teeth healthy. Practicing good oral hygiene contributes to your health in other ways, too. It allows you to regularly examine your mouth for any swelling or redness. Flossing gives you an opportunity to take a good look at your teeth, tongue, and gums.

Daily flossing helps to remove harmful plaque bacteria that can lead to gingivitis, an early form of gum disease. When left untreated, gingivitis can progress into a more advanced form of gum disease known as periodontitis. In fact, periodontal disease is the primary cause for tooth loss in adults and chronically unhealthy gums can increase your risk of losing your teeth or a need for a root canal.

Flossing daily (combined with brushing and a rinse) increases protection against gingivitis by removing plaque and food particles, keeping your teeth and gums healthy, while giving you a beautiful smile. Flossing is essential to your smile’s health, regardless of your age.

Many people who suffer from sensitive or bleeding gums may be tempted to avoid flossing for fear of making their bleeding gums worse. However, flossing can improve the health of your gums, thereby helping to prevent them from bleeding.

Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease. It is also the most treatable.

Additional Benefits of flossing

Here are just a few benefits of flossing your teeth:

  • Better removal of bad breath-causing bacteria than brushing alone
    • Reduce the risk of cavities
    • Reduces the likelihood of soreness, puffiness, and unsightly redness of the gums
    • Professional dental procedures are highly advanced, and can repair even severe medical problems. However, perhaps the most effective and cost-efficient oral health practice is brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing.

    What you should use to clean between your teeth

    You are not alone. Many have confessed to using fingernails, folded paper or cardboard, thread, forks or other utensils, safety pins and even strands of hair to clear the spaces between teeth.

    These are not the best tools for cleaning between teeth. In fact, they can be harmful.

    Fortunately, there are many safe and effective tools made for the job. You could choose from traditional dental floss, dental picks, or water flossers.

    Determining which flossing tool is right for you means that you should have a chat with your dentist and try different options to see which one you like best. Many find that the classic string floss works well. Dental picks and tiny brushes can be good for reaching out-of-the-way spots.

    A water flosser, which uses a gentle stream of water to rinse away food and plaque, can be useful if you find other tools hard to work with. People with braces, bridges and other dental work may find that a water flosser helps them reach every nook and cranny.

    How to floss

    • Starting with about 18 inches of floss, wind most of the floss around each middle finger, leaving an inch or two of floss to work with.
    • Holding the floss tautly between your thumbs and index fingers, slide it gently up-and-down between your teeth.
    • Gently curve the floss around the base of each tooth, making sure you go beneath the gumline. Never snap or force the floss, as this may cut or bruise delicate gum tissue.
    • Use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth.
    • To remove the floss, use the same back-and-forth motion to bring the floss up and away from the teeth.

    Add flossing to your oral care regimen, including your regular dentist visits and bear witness to the improvement of your oral health.

    Happy flossing!

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