Some patients dread the question, "how often do you floss?" when they go to the dentist. In fact, one survey found that 27% of adults in the U.S. lie about how much they floss; some would even rather prefer to do an unpleasant activity—like cleaning a toilet or washing dishes—instead of flossing. While regular brushing and preventative dental appointments are important, so is flossing. Take a look at why flossing is important and how to improve this habit if you struggle with it.
What Does Flossing Do Exactly?
Flossing doesn't just remove food particles; its purpose is like brushing: to prevent the build-up of plaque. Plaque is a sticky film of oral bacteria that causes cavities. While cavities can form on the chewing surfaces of teeth, they can also form in between teeth, where you need to floss.
Flossing is vital in preventing gingivitis and periodontal disease. These inflammatory diseases cause inflammation and bleeding in early stages, but they can cause bone loss and tooth loss in later stages. Gum disease has also been linked to other serious health conditions, like heart disease.
What Do Experts Say About Flossing?
While you should brush and floss, one dentist says that if you had to only pick one, then flossing would be the best choice and has a slight edge over brushing. Why? Some of the most destructive oral bacteria live near the gum line. Failure to remove this bacteria can leave you open to gingivitis and gum disease.
How Can You Improve Your Habits?
You may want to set a timer on your phone to remind yourself to floss. Although a reward system is often used for children, there's nothing wrong with giving yourself small rewards for flossing. Eventually, you won't need the reminders since you'll have developed it as a habit.
Some people don't like flossing because the floss hurts their gums. Keep in mind that you may have to endure a little discomfort, as people who don't floss may have swollen gum tissue. As you practice this habit, your gums will eventually strengthen and no longer bleed. If you are still having issues, then you may be flossing incorrectly. Instead of snapping floss forcefully, you should glide it at an angle or in a C-shape around the base of the tooth.
Some people may not like flossing because the floss shreds or because it's difficult to reach posterior teeth. There's an easy way to fix both problems. Instead of getting loose floss, look for mini-flossers that have a small piece of floss attached to plastic handles. These products won't shred, and it will be easier to maneuver the floss around hard-to-reach molars.
While an oral irrigator isn't a substitute for floss, it may be a good investment if you are struggling to get rid of debris and need additional help. Oral irrigators send streams of water to remove debris between teeth. Oral irrigators are especially useful for people with braces, crowns, implants, bridges, or other appliances that make flossing harder than usual.
Reach out to your dentist if you are still having issues with flossing or need help correcting gum inflammation so that flossing is no longer painful.
To learn more, contact a dentist.