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Posted on: May 10, 2021
Why Flossing Is a Must, Not a Maybe
How Important Is Flossing?
Chances are when you visit our office for a checkup, your dentist or dental hygienist will ask you if you floss regularly. If you answer yes, you can feel proud about performing a healthy habit that benefits the health of your teeth and gums. However, if you don’t floss daily and only rely on brushing your teeth, your mouth might not be as healthy as it should be.
As an interdental cleaner, flossing is designed to clean hard-to-reach areas of your mouth, such as between teeth and below the gum line. A toothbrush effectively cleans the surfaces of your teeth, but the bristles cannot reach every part of your mouth. Unlike your toothbrush, floss can reach between your teeth to effectively remove bacteria and food particles that might get trapped in tight spaces.
Flossing is also an effective method for removing plaque, which is a soft, sticky coating that forms on your teeth each day. Plaque is a harmful substance because it contains bacteria, and it’s commonly found between teeth and under the gum line. The bacteria feed on the sugars and starches in many food and drinks, producing acids that can destroy tooth enamel and damage your gum tissue.
Plaque quickly hardens into tartar if it’s not removed daily. Also known as dental calculus, tartar forms along the gum line and on the surface of the teeth. Since it’s strongly attached to the enamel of your teeth, only your dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar.
If you only floss occasionally, you might notice that your gums bleed a little when you start flossing again. This indicates that your gums are not as healthy as they should be, and it’s a sign that bacteria are attacking your gum tissue. Bleeding gums that are red and inflamed are the warning signs of gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. Daily flossing helps remove harmful bacteria from the gum line, greatly reducing your risk of developing gum disease.
Bacteria in your mouth also promote tooth decay and cavities. The acids that are produced by plaque bacteria are harmful to dental enamel. As these acids slowly wear away your tooth enamel, they can create holes in the enamel, forming a cavity. If you don’t floss for several days or longer, the bacteria have more than enough time to permanently damage your teeth. To prevent cavities from forming between your teeth, it’s important to floss every day.
Flossing can also have an impact on your overall health. Researchers have found a link between gum disease and systemic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory diseases. Inflammation in your mouth can travel throughout the body, increasing your risk of developing these types of serious health problems. For this reason, flossing each day can help you ensure better oral and overall physical health.
At What Age Should Kids Floss?
Kids can start to learn about the importance of flossing when they develop two teeth that are side by side. In general, this happens between the ages of two and six. Since children at this age lack the dexterity to floss effectively, it’s important for you to floss your child’s teeth at first. Children can practice flossing their baby teeth so that they’ll be ready to start flossing on their own once their permanent teeth arrive. Taking good care of baby teeth is important because of the role they play in chewing and guiding permanent teeth into place.
Making Flossing Fun for Children
When kids learn to floss early, they are more likely to prioritize flossing and maintaining good oral health throughout their lives. However, flossing can be a challenging concept for children, especially when they’re young. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to encourage your child to floss every day.
Try creating an interactive flossing chart and hanging it near the bathroom. Add a colorful sticker to the chart each day your child flosses, which can help them visualize their progress. Set a specific goal, such as flossing for two weeks in a row, and offer a reward when this goal is reached.
You can also set a time during the day, such as right before bedtime, when everyone in the family flosses their teeth together. This is an easy way for you to incorporate flossing as a part of your daily routine, and it also provides you with the opportunity to demonstrate the proper way to floss your teeth. Turning flossing into a dance party or telling an adventure story about plaque-fighting superheroes can add to the family fun.
Allowing your child to pick out their own dental floss or flossing stick can also provide the motivation needed to floss daily. Choosing a flavored dental floss or a brightly colored flossing stick featuring their favorite character can help your child get excited about flossing.
How to Floss the Right Way
To make sure that you’re effectively removing plaque, bacteria, and particles of food, it’s important to know the correct way to floss your teeth. Follow these simple steps to floss correctly:
- Break off about 18 inches of dental floss and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers. Wind the remaining floss around the middle finger of your opposite hand.
- As you hold the floss tightly between your index fingers and thumbs, gently guide the floss between your teeth. Use a slow, rubbing motion.
- Bend the dental floss into a C-shape to clean along the gum line. Gently slide the floss into the space between the tooth and gum.
- Carefully rub the floss against the sides of each tooth, using an up-and-down motion as you move the floss away from the gums.
- Use a clean piece of floss as you repeat these steps on each tooth. Don’t forget to clean all sides of your teeth, especially your back teeth.
- Since your gum tissue is delicate, make sure to never snap the floss or force it between the teeth and risk damaging your gums.
Need a little extra help when it comes to flossing? At your next appointment, ask your dentist or dental hygienist for helpful tips on how to effectively floss your teeth. Our dental professionals want to help you achieve healthy teeth and gums. Make your appointment today!