We all know we should be flossing. It has been repeated to us by doctors and family alike, and there is no denying it’s an important part of our oral health. However, do you know why exactly you should be flossing? What happens when you don’t floss? How to floss and when to do it?
Why Do You Need to Floss?
The main reason why you need to floss is that it keeps your teeth healthy. Now, that is something we probably all already know. So what exactly is it that makes flossing so good for your oral health?
- It attacks bacteria
The reason you brush your teeth or use mouthwash is to kill the bad bacteria in your mouth. When bad bacteria accumulates in your mouth, it can cause bad breath, yellow teeth, and eventually cavities. While we all know that bacteria is bad for our mouths, a lesser known fact is that mouth bacteria can also cause a whole array of health diseases. For example, the accumulation of bacteria in the mouth has been linked with heart disease and diabetes. Flossing is a very small step to add in your daily hygiene routine, but it can save you a lot of pain in the long run, and maybe even save your life!
To keep your mouth clean from that bacteria, you are strongly encouraged to brush your teeth after every meal. The problem with using a toothbrush however is that it does not get into the space between your teeth. Floss on the other hand, has the ability to get the bacteria that hides away in the little gap between your teeth and get rid of it as well. So if you are serious about having a perfectly clean mouth, you need to incorporate flossing into your daily routine.
- It removes plaque
The second enemy of teeth, after bacteria, is plaque. Plaque forms in your mouth naturally when you don’t brush your teeth, as a result of excess bacteria, and can cause some serious oral health problems. For example, excess plaque is linked to an increased risk of developing cavities and gum disease. You can remove most of the plaque in your mouth by brushing your teeth but again, flossing offers a much more complete clean.
Because flossing helps remove bacteria and plaque from your mouth, it is a great all-around oral health addition to add to your daily routine. Some added benefits of flossing regularly are better breath, fewer visits to the dentist, and better looking teeth!
- It protects your gums
Anyone who has experienced swollen, sensitive gums knows just how painful that condition can be. Gingivitis is one of the most common oral health problems, and is actually only the first stage of gum disease. So what causes gingivitis? One of the main factors in developing that condition is the accumulation of tartar in the mouth. Tartar is a hard, mineral deposit that can form in the mouth if plaque is left there to accumulate for too long. By flossing regularly, you are stopping plaque from forming in the space in between your teeth, which is closes to your gums. In turn, this helps prevent the formation of tartar there, and can save you from a world of gum pain! So if you think that flossing has nothing to do with gum health, rethink. Flossing can be one of the most useful things you can do to protect your gums from disease and pain.
- It can save your money in the long run
Dental emergencies are no joke. Not only are they extremely painful, they can also add up to cost a lot of money. Studies have shown that people who practice very good dental health care, including brushing their teeth after every meal and flossing regularly tend to experience fewer dental health costs. This is because they are less likely to develop cavities, or gum disease which will make them coming to the dentist in an emergency. Developing a habit for flossing regularly has life-long benefits, and will certainly keep your wallet a lot happier in the long run.
How Often Should You Floss?
Much like brushing your teeth, you can’t floss too often. Some dentists argue that it’s ideal to floss every time you brush your teeth, that is, after every single meal. While this makes sense because there is bacteria to remove after every meal, this recommendation can seem a bit extreme. Associations like the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Periodontology recommend that you floss once a day, which is a much more manageable and sustainable schedule.
What’s the Ideal Flossing Technique?
As easy as flossing might seem, there is actually a technique which you need to master for your flossing to be truly effective. Here is an easy step by step we’ve created to help you understand best flossing technique:
- Start off by getting about 20 inches of floss from the packaging (this should be enough to clean your whole mouth with).
- Wrap the two ends of the strand of floss around the middle fingers of both hands.
- With a fresh piece of floss held in between your two hands, start moving it up and down between your two front teeth. The movement which you are going for is a C shape that hugs the side of the tooth closely.
- Be careful and gentle! If you are too rough, the floss could break or you could cause your gums to start bleeding.
- Make about 10 strokes of the floss on each side of the tooth you’re cleaning.
- Repeat this process for every tooth.
- Make sure that with every tooth you floss, you take a new bit of floss so that it is always fresh and clean.
- Once you have flossed your whole mouth, some people like to rinse their mouth with mouthwash. This is completely optional, but it is a good step which helps kill even more harmful bacteria in the mouth.
- If you have any doubts, do not hesitate to ask your dentist for some help! They will be more than happy to show you how to floss as effectively as possible so that you are taking great care of your oral health.
When Is the Best Time to Floss?
Because flossing can take up a bit of time, we simply recommend that you floss when you have a few minutes to spare and can take some time to do it in a calm manner. Some people prefer to floss in the morning, and some people prefer to floss at night. There is no right and wrong answer here. In terms of getting rid of the most bacteria however, flossing at night may be best, as you will be getting rid of all that has accumulated in between your teeth during that day. By doing so, you are ensuring that the bacteria in between your teeth doesn’t grow and cause damage over night, before your next teeth brushing.
How to Choose the Right Flossing Device?
There are quite a few flossing devices out there that you can choose from. Making the choice mainly comes down to personal preference, as well as the state of your teeth.
For starter, because the floss is going to go in the space between your teeth, you need to consider what the state of that gap is. People with a larger gap in between their teeth will get a better flossing experience from using wider dental tape. For people with teeth that are very close together on the other hand, we’d recommend using very thin floss that is shred resistant to avoid it breaking while going into those small gaps.
For people with braces, things can get a bit trickier. Your orthodontist is likely to recommend a special floss for you to use, or you may want to try alternative flossing devices like super floss. or an electric flosser. Flossing will no doubt be more difficult for you, but crucially important so don’t get discouraged, and try to find a flossing technique and device which you can really commit to.
There are a couple options for standard floss such as waxed and unwaxed. Overall, waxed floss tends to be much more pleasant to use, although it may not always be as effective. At the end of the day though, it using nicely flavored waxed floss encourages you to floss more often, it may be better for your dental health in the long run.
We encourage you to try out a few different types of floss and find out which one works the best for you. You could also ask your dentist for a recommendation during your next visit, they are sure to know which would be the most appropriate to your needs!
As a disclaimer, you are likely to find quite a few studies nowadays claiming that flossing is not as highly beneficial as previous research had suggested. These studies are still fairly recent, and added to the fact that a lot of studies on flossing contradict one another, it is hard to reach a stable conclusion on the question. It is good to remember that quite a few studies on flossing have been funded by dental companies which have a vested interest in selling floss. However, independent doctors and dentists also tend to recommend flossing. Moreover, while studies sometimes suggest that flossing is ineffective, they also don’t show any risk associated with regular flossing.