Flossing is just one of those things we can’t seem to get away from! Have you ever wondered what flossing actually does for your teeth and gums? While we may think we can reach all the surfaces of our teeth with a thorough brushing, we are actually missing about 1/3 of the tooth surfaces by brushing alone. The plaque that forms on the surface of the teeth is an almost invisible film of bacteria that thrives on the food we eat and as a result produces acids and toxins that erode our teeth to create cavities and cause inflamed and bleeding gums. These bacteria are also one of the primary causes of bad breath odor. It is important to keep the gums healthy as research has shown that gum disease is linked to diabetes, heart disease and stroke, respiratory illnesses and pre-term, low birth-weight babies. More and more research is confirming that oral health is directly linked to whole-body health and at Bow View Dental Care we are committed to health promotion in our Cochrane community.
Although string floss is considered the “gold standard” in flossing, these days there are many alternatives that might make it easier for both children and adults to floss. The floss pick is a plastic toothpick with floss stretched across so that you can hold the handle while easing the floss between the teeth. Some come with a long, toothbrush shaped handle with disposable tips, some are one-use variations for children or adults, but all are available in your local drug and grocery stores at a reasonable price. Machines like the Water-Pik and Air Flosser can be a helpful aid in keeping gums healthy for people with specific needs, but do not replace flossing completely.
When flossing with string or picks, it is important to ease the floss through the tight contact point (this is the most likely place for a cavity to start!) and then rub up and down the side of the tooth 2-3 times, moving over the gum between the tooth to hug the other tooth and clean in the same way. If you can gently bring the floss below the gumline, you will reach the plaque that collects way down deep and causes gum disease. Flossing should be done once each day, ideally before you brush your teeth. If you haven’t flossed for a while, you may notice some bleeding or tenderness as you floss. This is normal and should go away within a week or two of regular flossing. If bleeding persists, come in and let Dr. Leong check to make sure there isn’t a more serious problem happening.
If you have children in your household, it is important for them to have their teeth flossed as soon as their teeth begin to touch. You can use string or floss picks to floss for them and be sure to encourage them when they feel independent enough to try it themselves! Let them try first, but always go back and make sure you clean those tight contacts to prevent cavities in your child’s teeth. Kids also love to mimic the things their parents do—so be sure you let them see you flossing every day! Good dental care is a family affair!
They say it takes about two weeks for anything we try to become a habit, and most of our patients find that if they stick to daily flossing for a couple of weeks, they really begin to notice a change in their gum health, better breath and cleaner feeling teeth.
If you have any questions about the best way to floss your teeth, or if you are experiencing bleeding gums or breath odor, please call our office for an appointment. Your oral health really does impact your whole body health!