Every time you go to the dentist you probably hear the same question: have you been flossing? If your answer is that you don’t or that you only do sometimes then your dentist will stress the importance of regularly flossing your teeth. Your dentist will also probably give you complimentary floss. Still, though, many people don’t floss their teeth at all, or they don’t floss regularly. You probably know you should be flossing, but you don’t realize how serious the repercussions can be. Dental care professionals don’t say this because they own stock in a floss company!
What Exactly Is Floss?
Floss is a soft thread. It’s either going to be made of a multi-filament nylon or mono-filament Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Nylon floss can be waxed or unwaxed and comes in assorted flavors to make the process more pleasant. Sometimes this type of floss will break or tear. PTFE is less likely to shred and break, but both varieties are effective when used correctly.
What Is Flossing?
Flossing, when done properly, reaches parts of your teeth that you toothbrush can’t, like between your teeth and under your gum line. To floss, you should start with about 18 inches of your floss thread. Wind it around your middle fingers until you’ve got about 2 inches to work with. Hold the floss between your forefinger and your thumb, make sure that it’s pulled tight and then just work it up and down between your teeth. Be sure to get the floss under your gum line gently, never forcing it. Your gums are very delicate, and if you floss too hard, you can actually cut them. Continue making your way around your mouth using clean sections of floss as you go. That’s all there is to flossing.
Why Is Flossing So Important?
Your toothbrush only cleans the surface areas of your teeth. No matter how often you brush or what type of brush you use, it simply won’t reach every part of every tooth. There’s a tight space between each of your teeth and there’s actually a small gap between your teeth and gums too. The tiny particles of food and tiny bacteria that contribute to the formation of plaque have no problem getting into these spaces. Mouthwash can help to kill the bacteria, but it won’t help to remove the bits of food that get stuck there, and it doesn’t get rid of plaque that has already formed.
Plaque, if left unattended, will eventually turn into tartar. Plaque is a sticky substance that brushing and flossing removes with little effort, but tartar is hard and crusty. Only special tools used by dental professionals and a process known as scaling can remove it. Tartar also makes it more difficult for your regular, at-home techniques to remove new plaque that builds up.
Fighting plaque is a lifelong battle, and it’s the main goal of pretty much all dental care. Plaque starts to form between 4 and 12 hours after each brushing, which is why both brushing and flossing are both extremely important. Each time you brush you should also be taking a few moments to floss. The two go hand-in-hand, and they are two tools that work together to complete the job that is cleaning your teeth. When your plaque turns to tartar and you can’t remove new plaque, then that new plaque is more likely to turn into even more tartar. This is a dangerous cycle.
Dental health not only keeps your smile looking its best, but it also prevents bad breath, gum disease, and periodontal disease. Tartar creates a home for even more bacteria leading to gingivitis, a gum infection. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease. The final and most severe stage of gum disease is periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is painful and all around unpleasant. It can even lead to the loss of teeth that have become too infected to save or that have become loosened by the condition eating away at your gums and roots.
Brushing keeps your teeth clean and looking great on the surface, but it’s the places you can’t see where plaque and tartar can really do the most damage. If your teeth look fine when you smile, but you have bacteria eating away at your gums and teeth below your gum line, then your mouth still isn’t healthy. It’s only a matter of time before you start experiencing the negative consequences. Simply flossing can save you a lot of trouble and money down the road.