Flossing is even more important than brushing!
Do you floss? Or, like many people, do you always seem to find a reason not to?
A 2008 survey found that only 49% of Americans floss daily, and 10% never floss. That’s most unfortunate, dentists say, because flossing is even more important than brushing when it comes to preventing periodontal (gum) disease and tooth loss.
Dentists say they hear all sorts of excuses for not flossing. Yet they insist that simple workarounds exist for just about all:
Excuse #1: Food doesn’t get caught between my teeth, so I don’t need to floss.
Flossing is not just about removing food debris as it is about removing dental plaque, the complex bacterial ecosystem that forms on tooth surfaces between cleanings. Plaque is what causes tooth decay, inflamed gums (gingivitis), periodontal disease, and eventually tooth loss. Flossing or using an interdental cleaner is the only effective way to remove plaque between teeth.
Excuse #2: I don’t know how to floss.
Flossing is not easy. But practice makes perfect.
Flossing procedure from the American Dental Association:
- Start with about 18 inches of floss. Wrap most of it around the middle finger of one hand, the rest around the other middle finger.
- Grasp the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers, and use a gentle shoeshine motion to guide it between teeth.
- When the floss reaches the gum line, form a C shape to follow the contours of the tooth.
- Hold the floss firmly against the tooth, and move the floss gently up and down.
- Repeat with the other tooth, and then repeat the entire process with the rest of your teeth, “unspooling” fresh sections of floss as you go along.
Do not forget to floss the backs of your last molars, which is where most gum disease and most decay occurs!
Excuse #3: I’m not coordinated enough to floss.
Many tooth-cleaning options exist for people whose manual dexterity is compromised by poor coordination, hand pain, paralysis, and amputations — or simply by fingers that are too big to fit inside the mouth.
One option is to use floss holders. These disposable plastic Y-shaped devices (some equipped with a spool of floss) hold a span of floss between two prongs to allow one-handed use.
Excuse #4: I do not have time to floss.
Effective flossing does take a while, about 3-5 minutes once a day. As with exercise, bathing, and other daily activities, the key is to make flossing a habit for personal hygiene.
Excuse #5: It hurts when I floss.
If flossing causes gum pain or bleeding, odds are you have gingivitis or gum disease — precisely the conditions for which flossing is beneficial. Flossing should not be a painful experience, but stopping flossing because of bleeding or pain is just the opposite of what should be done. With daily brushing, flossing, and rinsing, gum pain and bleeding should stop within a week or two. If either persists, see a dentist.
Excuse #6: My teeth are spaced too close together to floss.
If unwaxed floss does not work for your teeth, you might try waxed floss. If you are having trouble finding a workable floss or interdental cleaner on your own, your dentist should be able to offer guidance.
Excuse #7: The floss keeps shredding.
In many cases, broken or fraying floss is caused by a cavity or a problem with dental work — often a broken or poorly fabricated filling or crown. Consult your dentist.
Excuse #8: I have dental work that makes flossing impossible.
Ask your dentist for floss threaders.