Flossing is an essential part of your daily regimen for proper dental care and hygiene. While there is ongoing debate as to whether or not flossing is necessary to prevent cavities, there is no denying that it is crucial to your periodontal health. Periodontics concerns the health of your gums and the bone surrounding your teeth, and any periodontist will tell you that flossing is integral to maintaining healthy gums.
People who do not floss may be more prone to infections of the gum. Gingivitis is the beginning stages of a periodontal infection, and presents as bleeding, inflamed, or red gums. If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into periodontal disease, a severe infection that can lead to bone loss and even the loss of teeth.
Infections of the gums and inflammation can be caused by plaque and particles of food that get caught in the spaces between the teeth, or even between the gum and the tooth itself. These particles may be too small for your toothbrush to clean, and too tightly-packed for mouthwash to clear away. Over time, bacteria accumulates and your gums may redden or become inflamed, thus leading to infection.
Flossing every day is one of the most effective ways to prevent gingivitis before it even begins. It is one of the best ways to ensure you’re cleaning between your teeth to avoid a buildup of plaque and bacteria. Unfortunately, not everybody flosses as often as they should. Flossing takes more time and requires more careful attention to each tooth, and many people mistakenly assume that if they brush thoroughly, they can catch all those hard to reach places. Furthermore, not everybody knows the proper way to floss. Welcome to Flossing 101: an examination of different ways to improve your flossing techniques and products that can help you stay thorough and consistent.
When it comes to flossing, consistency is key: the American Dental Association recommends flossing at least once a day. Because flossing requires a couple of extra minutes, it is a good idea to floss when you have the time, or the patience, and stick to that time each day. Some people prefer to floss right before bed, others first thing in the morning. While once a day is sufficient, there are people who floss after every meal. As long as you have the time and attention to devote to flossing every day, it doesn’t matter when you do it.
To floss thoroughly, you need to make sure you’re reaching the spaces between each tooth on both sides–including the back side of your last tooth. It is important not to be too rough on your gums; don’t snap the floss into your gums, and be careful to ease the other flossing instruments you use into the spaces between. Bleeding of the gums usually occurs when they are inflamed, so if bleeding persists beyond the first week or two, you may be flossing too hard. Consult with your dentist just to be sure.
The following technique is for flossing using traditional floss. Keep reading onto the next section for more on flossing with various other products.
● Snip off an 18-inch piece of floss, and wind the floss around the middle finger of each hand, leaving a one or two-inch length of floss in between.
● Decide which direction feels most comfortable to you: beginning with your upper teeth or your lower teeth, from left to right or from right to left. It is best to floss your teeth in order and to finish one row before continuing on to the second.
● For your upper row, use your thumbs to guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion.
● The floss should hug your tooth: wrap it around each tooth gently working your way down to the gum and below the gumline, then working your way back up with up-and-down motions.
● Repeat for each one of your upper teeth.
● For your lower row, use your index finger to guide the floss between your teeth, and repeat the aforementioned technique.
● Use clean segments of floss as you go along.
Traditional floss is highly effective in cleaning between teeth and preventing gum disease and gingivitis. However, some people choose to use other products to get the job done. There is no right or wrong product for flossing–it’s essentially a matter of preference. Whichever product you’re the most comfortable with and feel will give you the most out of your dental routine.
Floss is the traditional product for cleaning between teeth. There are several different types of floss, each designed for your own comfort and ease of use. Most flosses are available in different flavors, as well.
● Nylon floss, or multifilament floss, is composed of multiple strands of thread and is available waxed or unwaxed. Wax provides for a more silky feel and can be easier to glide across your teeth. because it is made of multiple strands, there may be some shredding or tearing when flossing in tight spaces.
● PTFE, or single filament, floss is more expensive, but it’s shred resistant as it is composed of a single fiber.
● Ribbon or tape floss is a wider floss that covers more surface between teeth and is optimal for wide spaces, though fine floss can be just as effective.
● Floss Picks
Floss picks are delicate two-pronged instruments with approximately an inch of taut floss between each prong. They are single-use instruments that function in much the same way as floss. Simply hold the pick in your hand and use your index finger or thumb (depending on which row of your tooth) and gently guide the floss between your teeth, flossing the way you would with traditional floss. Floss picks usually have a point at the tip of their handle that can be used like a toothpick. Some people find using a floss pick to be easier because it only requires one hand, and you do not have to wrap the floss around your fingers.
● Interdental Brushes
Interdental brushes are short, very thin brushes that fit between your teeth to clean both sides of the space simultaneously. The brush portion has 360 degrees of bristles that function much like a toothbrush to sweep away plaque and debris between teeth. They are particularly useful for cleaning around crowns, bridges, permanent retainers, and other dental work.
While interdental brushes are also very effective, they are more difficult to use for people whose teeth are spaced closely together. If you have difficulty guiding the brush between some of your teeth, do not force it. Instead, use floss or a floss pick for those teeth, and use your interdental brush for more widely spaced teeth.
● Oral Irrigator
An oral irrigator is an electronic or battery powered device that uses a stream of pulsating water to remove plaque and debris from between teeth. Perhaps the most widely known brand of oral irrigator is the Waterpik. The base of the oral irrigator is filled with water, which is connected to the instrument via a thin hose.
The instrument itself has a long, thin neck with a pointed head that controls the stream of water. Many oral irrigators come with different tips you can switch out depending on how pressured or focused you want the water. While oral irrigators are generally sufficient for flossing, keep in mind that water may not clean as thoroughly as an instrument that can actually get between your teeth.
Proper flossing is something your dentist or dental hygienist can teach you fairly quickly before or after your dental examination. They can go over your options with you to find the right tools and techniques that work for you. Remember: flossing daily is essential, and if the idea of devoting an extra two minutes to your dental regimen each day seems daunting, it is important that you work with your dentist to find a way with which you are comfortable and can remain consistent.