While most people would never dream of skipping a day of brushing, flossing is a step that many people do skip. In fact, a recent study revealed that 18.5% of Americans never floss and nearly 30% floss sporadically. If you’ve been to the dentist lately, you have probably been asked if you have been flossing, and there is a good reason for that question: flossing in an integral part of oral health.
What is flossing?
Unlike brushing (which cleans the surfaces of teeth), floss is an interdental cleaner, which means that Floss can clean between teeth. Cleaning between teeth, where a toothbrush cannot reach, is so important that the US Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement supporting the ADA’s recommendation of daily flossing.
Types of floss
A quick trip down the dental care aisle will illustrate just how many floss options are available.
- Dental floss: waxed, unwaxed, flavored (usually mint or cinnamon or plain), comfort floss, extra thick floss, mouthwash-infused floss
- Threaded floss: particularly useful for those with braces
- Floss picks: convenient for on-the-go or those with dexterity troubles
Regardless of which type of floss you choose, the most important thing is that you floss, period.
When to floss
The ADA suggests brushing twice a day, but flossing is necessary only once per day. It’s up to you if you would rather floss during your morning routine or your before-bed routine. However, flossing before you brush allows for brushing to be more effective. Why? With less plaque blocking the spaces between your teeth, the fluoride in your toothpaste can hit more surfaces in your mouth.
Additionally, children also need to floss; just like with brushing, parental supervision will be required until around age 8 to ensure a thorough job is done.
Benefits of Flossing
A professor at the New York University School of Dentistry contends that most people are not diligent flossers because they do not immediately see results; however, the benefits of flossing are extended far beyond just food particle removal.
- Food removal: As bits of food get stuck between teeth, they can cause discomfort and eventually an odor. This is particularly important for those wearing braces to be diligent yet careful with flossing.
- Removes bacteria: Even after a good brushing, bacteria and debris can still hide between teeth. Bacteria can lead to tooth decay, so it is important to remove as much as possible.
- Plaque removal: Brushing helps remove plaque from the surfaces of teeth, but what about the plaque in between teeth? Researchers believe that flossing does up to 40% of total plaque removal.
- Help prevent gum disease: How does flossing work to fight gum disease? Tartar and plaque are more than just unsightly; they creep below the gum line, which then can cause periodontitis. Periodontitis, a severe gum disease, is characterized by red swollen gum, tooth loss, and bone loss. By removing plaque, flossing helps prevent the cycle of plaque to periodontitis.
If you are unsure which floss product is right for you and your family, speak with your dentist.