In the last few weeks, flossing has taken quite a beating. At the start of August, the Associated Press (AP) published a letter written by the US Department for Health that apparently claimed flossing didn’t have the benefits dentists across the world have always claimed it did.
The AP article sparked a flurry of controversy, with some laypeople using personal experience to support the claim-they’ve never flossed, but they’ve never had a cavity, and so they agreed with the article. Meanwhile, most dentists and dental hygienists took to the news and comment sections to refute the claim, stating that flossing is still a crucial part of every individual’s dental health.
A few days after the controversial article, the American Dental Association (ADA) published a statement: flossing is one of the most essential parts of your dental healthcare routine.
Below, we’ll tell you exactly why the ADA is right. Continue flossing to protect your teeth from cavities, your gums from infection, and your body from infection- and plaque-related illnesses.
How Flossing Helps
Brushing your teeth morning and night goes a long way towards removing stray food particles that get stuck in between your teeth. It also helps remove the filmy plaque that gets created by bacteria as they munch on the carbohydrates you consume each day.
Brushing twice a day is crucial if you want to avoid cavities: the longer food particles sit in between your teeth, the more time bacteria have to break them down. As the bacteria thrive, they wear away at your teeth’s enamel, and you develop cavities that ruin your teeth’s structure.
The bacteria can also impact your gums. As the bacteria continue to feast off leftover food particles, they can infest your gum line and cause painful infection, swelling, and bleeding. A mild gum infection is known as gingivitis. A more advanced gum infection is called periodontitis, and it can eventually lead to tooth and bone loss.
If you brush twice a day and visit your dentist every six months, you won’t have to worry about plaque or tartar, the harder substance that forms when you don’t rinse plaque off your teeth. But brushing your teeth doesn’t mean you can skip flossing. Running a slim line of floss between your teeth removes food stuck in hard-to-reach areas in your mouth that brushing alone won’t reach.
Apart from keeping your mouth cavity- and gingivitis-free, flossing helps in the following ways as well:
- Removes plaque and bacteria to keep your whole body healthy. The less bacteria you have in your mouth, the healthier you are overall. Excess plaque and bacteria in the mouth have been linked to heart disease and other serious conditions.
- Freshens your breath. The less bacteria and fewer decomposing food particles in your mouth, the better your breath smells.
- Keep your smile straight and white. The bacteria in your mouth produce a yellow film called biofilm that stains your teeth. Brushing and flossing help ensure your pearly whites stay pearly white for as long as possible.
Flossing on its own won’t keep your smile bright and shiny, but when you combine it with regular brushing, you can look forward to a happy, healthy smile.
How and When to Floss
Flossing with typical dental floss is fairly straightforward. Pull out about 18 inches of string from the floss container. Wrap each end of the floss around your index fingers so you can pull the string tight. Insert the floss in the gap between each tooth and gently run it up and down both the right and left sides of the gap. Don’t dig in too hard-you don’t want to injure your gum tissue.
It doesn’t matter if you floss your teeth before or after you brush them. Just make sure you floss at least once per 24 hours. If you do floss after brushing, swish your mouth out with water to remove any leftover particles.
However, flossing with traditional floss isn’t the only way to remove particles from between your teeth.
You can also use water picks, interdental brushes, and other alternative forms of floss to clean your teeth. Read all about your options on our blog.
If you’ve never flossed before (or if you only floss rarely), your first few days or nights of flossing might irritate your gums. It’s normal to expect them to feel extra sensitive or even to bleed a bit. If your gums don’t start to feel better after a few days, schedule an appointment with your dentist to find out if you have an underlying gum condition.
How Else to Protect Your Smile
Like we said above, flossing alone won’t keep your smile healthy. Along with brushing, flossing, and scheduling visits with your dentist, make sure to drink plenty of water to rinse plaque away. Eat healthy foods like carrots that help work the plaque off your teeth, and avoid sticky sweets and hard candies that wear down your enamel.
Schedule an Appointment With Us
When you visit a dentist for your six-month checkup, your hygienist will polish your teeth, scrape away the plaque, and, of course, floss your teeth to remove any trapped food particles. If it’s time for your sixmonth checkup, or if you have any questions about flossing or any other aspect of your dental health, call the team at All About Smiles for help.