How To Floss Your Teeth (And Why You Need To) – Here’s A Hint, To Prevent Gingivitis And Tooth Loss
Growing up most of us were taught about the importance of brushing our teeth but a majority of us weren’t taught about the importance of flossing.
In a survey done by Delta Dental, 7 out of 10 Americans brush at least twice a day but only 4 out of 10 floss at least once a day (20% of the people surveyed said they never flossed).
That same survey also showed the strong relationship between flossing and good oral health.
Did you know that brushing is just the first line of defense against gum disease and tooth decay?
Flossing is equally as important because the bristles on the toothbrush won’t be able to reach areas in between teeth and gums and take out every last bit of food crumb that may be wedged there.
An article from WebMD states that floss does around 40% of the work needed to remove sticky plague and bacteria from teeth.
In fact the teeth have five sides – front, sides, back and the underside.
Here’s an interesting fact – flossing will leave at least two sides of your teeth unclean.
Since plaque generates acid it can lead to cavities and eventually gum disease. When you have gum disease you can lose your teeth – you don’t want that.
What are the benefits of flossing?
The biggest benefit of flossing is cleaner teeth and gums because it will allow you to reach areas the toothbrush cannot.
This means cleaner teeth and stronger gums. Since you’ve removed most if not all food residue, there is very little chance of cavities to form which can lead to tooth decay and even tooth loss.
In a study done by the New York University College of Dentistry on 51 sets of twins between 12 and 21 years of age. Each twin was randomly given a treatment regimen that lasted a two week period – one would brush with a manual toothbrush and toothpaste while the other brushed (with a manual toothbrush and toothpaste) and flossed afterwards.
At the end of the two week period samples were taken to compare the levels of bacteria present. Based on the results they found out that the individual who only brushed had significantly more bacteria that caused periodontal disease compared to individuals who brushed and flossed.
What happens if you don’t floss?
There has been a serious debate recently about the importance of flossing, scientists say that you don’t need to but dentists think otherwise.
The problem with flossing is that it is tedious, takes practice to perfect the correct technique and the effects don’t show up immediately but to give you some inspiration, let me share with you some reasons why flossing is very important. This could save you from headaches (literally) and money in the long run.
Disclaimer: Flossing may not be suited for everyone so these are just general guidelines. Each person will have unique set of teeth that may or may not respond to flossing. There are alternatives that you might want to consider if flossing is not suited for you. Remember to always consult with your dentist.
1. Plaque Build Up – When we eat carbohydrates, microorganisms in our teeth convert it into acid that sticks to our teeth and gums. Overtime if you don’t properly floss that acid eats through the enamel of the teeth. This process decalcifies the teeth and cavities form.
2. Leads To Gingivitis – Not only is your teeth affected but also your gums because that same plaque that destroys teeth also cause inflammation of the gums that when not addressed (or in layman if you don’t have proper dental hygiene) will lead to gingivitis.
3. Gum Disease Has Been Linked To Systemic Diseases – Studies have linked periodontal disease (or gum disease) to systemic diseases or the diseases that affects the whole body like cancer, heart disease and diabetes [1, 2, 3].
4. Tooth Loss – One area that toothbrush cannot reach is the area between the teeth and gums (this area is called the gum line). These spots are where tiny bits of food particles get trapped in and when if you don’t clean this part through flossing plaque forms that hardens over time and turn into tartar. Tartar can also spread onto the gums and cause periodontitis or gum disease which will eventually lead to tooth loss .
5. Yellow Teeth – Brushing alone will not keep your teeth from becoming yellow as residue from food forms plaque and this is the main culprit of yellow teeth. If plaque isn’t cleaned by flossing it hardens and becomes tartar .
6. Bad Breath – When you don’t remove food residue left on your teeth (if you don’t brush) or in between gums, it will rot and there will be bacteria build up inside your mouth.
7. Poor Sex Life – Men listen up, if you want to get it up when it counts, make sure to floss at least once a day. In one research done on mice revealed that periodontitis (or gum disease) caused erectile dysfunction, at least on mice subjects .
The question is does this translate to human males? Well, in another study a group of men between 30 and 40 who had ED, 53% of them had severe periodontitis. This study suggested that periodontal treatment can help improve their condition but further studies have to be done to confirm this .
The link between the two may not be clear but there is one so make sure to floss every day, just saying.
8. Ulcer – The main cause of ulcer flare ups is the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. This same bacterium forms when gums develop periodontitis and studies have confirmed that people with gum disease are at higher risk of having ulcer attacks. What’s worst is that this can also lead to stomach cancer [10, 11].
How often should I floss?
The American Dental Association recommends that you floss at least once a day to remove food residue and plaque from the areas in your teeth that cannot be reached by your toothbrush.
On whether you should floss before or after brush, it does not really matter. If you’re more comfortable doing it before brush then by all means do so, if you’re more comfortable after brushing then do that. The important thing is picking a time of the day where you can spare an extra few minutes to properly floss.
How to floss properly
To maximize the benefits of flossing, you will need to use the proper technique to remove food residue that is lodged in between teeth and gum line. These two areas are places where toothbrush cannot reach.
Most people only floss the sides and not the gum line. This is an area where a lot of food residue get trapped and I’ve already mentioned to you about the dangers of not flossing in the section above.
Let’s go through process step by step.
1. Pull out 18 to 24 inches of dental floss and wrap the ends on your left and right index fingers (not too tightly so you don’t hurt your fingers) then use both thumbs or middle finger to control the floss for the upper and lower teeth respectively. This technique should leave around a one inch gap between the two ends.
Here’s the technique in action…
Another technique would be wrapping the floss on the middle finger to free up the index and thumb to hold the floss. This technique will give you better control.
2. Slide the floss in-between teeth in a side to side motion (or zig-zag pattern). This removes any food particles lodged in-between teeth. Make sure not to snap or pop the floss on the gums.
3. Next would be wrapping the floss around the side of the teeth to form a “C” shape. Carefully slide it under the gum line towards the middle of the tooth.
Be careful not to go side to side when cleaning the gum line.
When you hear the floss making a squeaking sound that means the plaque has been removed.
Repeat this process until you cleaned every tooth. Make sure to slide the floss around to expose a clean part as you go along.
If it is your first time flossing expect some bleeding to occur that should subside but if it does not please visit your dentist immediately because it could be a sign of a serious gum disease.
Enjoy your floss!