The Importance of Flossing

Knowing how and why promotes good flossing habits

We know that most people do not love flossing.  In fact, many people hate it.  We think this is just a big misunderstanding.  First, when you truly “get” the value of something, you can get past the thought that it is an inconvenience and persevere for the three minutes that it takes.  Next, you might be doing it wrong.

This blog will not only explain how valuable flossing is; it will also help you understand the right technique.

The Value of Flossing

It is impossible to put a dollar amount on the value of flossing.  How do you quantify not needing fillings, crowns, and gum treatments?  How do you put a price tag on a longer lifespan?

  1. Flossing helps you spend LESS time in the dental office.

Flossing is the only way to remove plaque, food debris and bacteria between the teeth.  Your toothbrush bristles simply cannot reach those areas.  When you do not floss, that bacteria does what it does best: causes dental disease.  Some bacteria produce an acid that weakens your enamel, allowing cavities to form.  Other bacteria causes an inflammatory response from your gums, leading to gingivitis and periodontal disease.

By flossing regularly (by regularly, we mean at least once a day), you remove this bacteria and lower your risk for cavities and gum disease.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the only time you went to the dental office were for a professional teeth cleaning and oral evaluation?  With regular flossing, you make that a possibility!

Flossing helps you spend less time in the dental chair.  Dental work is relatively expensive.  Lowering your risk for these dental diseases by flossing reduces the need for costly dental work.  When you floss consistently, you are literally saving money!

  1. Flossing makes your professional teeth cleanings faster and more comfortable.

As stated in #1 above, flossing removes the bacteria that causes inflammation in the gums.  This inflammation is what makes a professional teeth cleaning uncomfortable or even painful.  Gingivitis causes red, puffy, tender and bleeding gums.  Because a professional teeth cleaning involves removing the hard bacterial buildup underneath or right next to those inflamed gums, it hurts.

When you keep your teeth clean by flossing every night at home, you are much less likely to have gingivitis.  Healthy gums do not hurt during a professional teeth cleaning.  Patients who begin flossing often tell us how much easier their teeth cleanings are.

  1. Flossing prevents bad breath.

The plaque, bacteria, and food debris that collects between the teeth stinks.  Bacterial overgrowth is the number one cause of bad breath.  You can never have completely fresh breath without flossing.

Every person is a little different, and some people have a strain of bacteria that produces a particularly foul smelling odor.  The key to fighting bad breath is fighting bacteria.

  1. Flossing can help you catch dental problems in an early stage.

There are several different types of dental problems that begin between the teeth.  The spot just below where two teeth touch is a very common site for cavities to start.  It is also the site of the edge (also called margin) of different dental work.  By flossing, you can feel changes in these tooth surfaces or the junction between dental work and tooth.  For example, a loosened filling allows bacteria to penetrate under it and cause a new cavity.  Flossing is a form of early detection.

Flossing also allows you to detect areas of hard bacteria accumulation (called tartar).  If you feel a small click or catch along the tooth surface as you floss, it’s possible that you have a collection of tartar.  Catching this early helps you address it before it progresses into full-blown periodontal disease.

  1. Flossing lowers your risk for certain illnesses.

Medical research studies show that there is a correlation between the amount of plaque buildup on your teeth and your risk for heart disease.  Keeping your teeth clean also helps keep your arteries clean.  Flossing lowers your risk for heart disease.

Diabetes is another illness affected by the health of your gums.  Studies show that uncontrolled gum disease raises blood sugar levels.  By flossing, you are helping to maintain healthy blood sugar levels!

  1. Flossing increases your life span.

The mouth is the gateway to the body.  If your mouth is unhealthy, your body is unhealthy.  People who floss regularly are consistently healthier than those who do not, and therefore they experience a longer lifespan.  One study claimed an increase of six years in the lifespan among regular flossers.

Because flossing reduces inflammation and lowers risk for both dental disease and systemic illnesses, it keeps you alive longer.

Now that you understand how valuable that three minutes of between-the-teeth cleaning is, let’s move on to how to do it properly.

How to Floss Correctly

Most people have never been taught to floss.  It is not a skill that you just inherently know.  There are very particular ways you should floss in order to receive all of the great benefits we listed above.

The Wrong Way to Floss

Let’s address the techniques are not effective first.

  1. Only flossing a few teeth.

This is a common problem that we see in your dental office.  Many people only floss a specific area where food gets caught and forget the rest.  To keep ALL of your teeth healthy, you have to floss ALL of them.

  1. Quickly snapping the floss between the teeth and back out.

This method might dislodge a large piece of food debris, but it does not clean plaque off the tooth surface.  The floss needs to wrap around the tooth and gently move just beneath the gums in order to actually remove the plaque stuck to the tooth.

  1. Aggressively pushing the floss into the gums.

It is possible to floss too hard.  When cleaning your teeth, you should use only gentle motions.  Plaque is soft and comes away easily when touched by a toothbrush bristle or floss.  It does not take rough or aggressive movements to remove plaque.  Too much force when flossing can make it uncomfortable and actually hurt the gums.

The Right Way to Floss

The correct technique for flossing is called “C-shaped flossing”.  After inserting the floss between the teeth, just under the spot where they touch, you should pull the floss toward you to lightly wrap it around one of the teeth.  This pulls the floss into a C shape around the rounded side of one tooth.  In this position, you should gently move the floss toward the gums and then back up toward the teeth.  Imagine the floss rubbing the side of the tooth to push away any soft buildup.

Then push the floss in the opposite direction to wrap it around the other tooth in that site.  Perform the same up-and-down motion to remove the plaque buildup from that tooth’s curved surface.

You can pull the floss back out the way you inserted it.  If the teeth touch each other very tightly and removing the floss is difficult, simply release the floss with one hand and pull it out with the other.  There is no need to snap the floss back out between the teeth.

Do You Have More Questions about Flossing?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a professional teeth cleaning with one of our awesome dental hygienists.  They are flossing experts and can answer any question you may have about flossing.  They will also give you customized tips on how to floss certain areas in your mouth.