To floss, or not to floss, that is the question… Okay, we get it. It’s not exactly Shakespeare, but it’s a critical question nonetheless. Fact is, there’s a reason why your dentist keeps telling you to floss every day — it plays a crucial role in protecting your oral health.
Our team at Bell Family Dental PC in Bayside, New York, shared these insights into why you should make time to floss every day.
The purpose of flossing
Few people question the importance of brushing twice a day. It’s easy to see that your toothbrush bristles scrub plaque off of your teeth, and toothpaste eliminates bacteria. Together, they keep your mouth feeling fresh and clean. However, brushing alone has its limitations, and that’s where flossing comes in.
Flossing the hard to reach nooks and crannies of your mouth actually does about 40% of the work removing the sticky plaque on your teeth. Plaque is a clear film containing millions of bacteria. When ignored, it can harden and create tartar buildup, putting you at risk of gum disease, tooth decay, and bone loss.
When you clean your mouth with floss, it removes plaque from tight areas where your toothbrush can’t reach, like between your teeth and underneath your gums.
The dangers of gum disease
Gum disease occurs when you have plaque, tartar, and bacteria in your mouth, causing inflammation or infection in the delicate gum tissue. Warning signs of gum disease include visible redness, swelling, and often bleeding when you brush your teeth.
There are different stages of gum disease. The earliest, or gingivitis, responds well to good oral hygiene and professional care. However, without treatment, periodontitis develops. In this more severe form of gum disease, you have a bacterial infection causing your gums and the bone in your jaw to break down. As a result, your gums start to recede and pull back from your teeth. You also lose structural support for your teeth, which can lead to tooth loss.
And the risk of gum disease doesn’t stop with your mouth. Research shows a connection between gum disease and more than 120 health conditions, including diabetes, heart and kidney disease, osteoporosis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
All of these dangers make proper oral hygiene even more important when it comes to maintaining your health and wellness. That means flossing once a day, brushing for two minutes twice daily, and scheduling regular professional cleanings.
Protecting your health with flossing
Unfortunately, flossing is only effective when done with the right technique. Our team recommends following these steps:
- Start with about 18 inches of floss
- Wrap the floss ends around your fingertips
- Gently slide the floss in between two teeth
- Bend the floss around your tooth, rubbing it up and down to remove plaque
- Repeat with your remaining teeth
- When finished, rinse your mouth and brush
- Discard used floss, which can contain bacteria
Remember, be gentle when flossing, especially if you’re just starting out. It can take time for tender gums tissue to become used to a flossing routine.