This question can instill fear in even the most consistent practitioners of oral hygiene. We all know how important it is to floss our teeth, but how many of us can claim to do it regularly? Taking the time to floss is often the last thing we want to do before dropping into bed exhausted.
What most of us don’t know is that flossing isn’t just about removing food from in between our teeth, it’s actually about reducing the amount of plaque along the gum line and in between teeth. According to this dentist writing for Dr. Oz, removing the plaque from in between teeth is even more important than from the fronts or top of teeth, which happens while brushing. She went as far as to say if you have to pick one, choose to floss. But try really hard to just do both!
The American Dental Association recommends flossing once a day. You may think that swishing with mouthwash gets the stuff in between the teeth, but it doesn’t. Mouthwash kills bacteria, but it cannot clear away plaque. Flossing may be annoying, but it’s necessary.
Most of us are masters at coming up with excuses for not flossing our teeth. If you have trouble remembering to floss, try placing the floss right next to your toothbrush as a visual reminder. For many people, flossing just feels awkward, especially getting large hands to reach the back molars. If this is the case for you, try some plastic flossers. They even make some with long handles and replaceable floss. If you are just too tired at night to floss your teeth, try doing it at another time. Though before bed is the best time to floss, flossing at least once every 24 hours is key. Try having a role of floss or plastic flosser in your car or in your desk at work. Next time you’re stuck in traffic or stuck on hold, grab that floss and get to it. You can even floss while finishing that episode on Netflix right before bed.
It’s also important to help children with their flossing. You can start helping your kids floss their teeth as soon as they have two teeth that touch. Most kids will need help until they’re about 11 years old. But let’s be honest, we all still need a little help flossing sometimes, even as adults.
Flossing your teeth is also very important for promoting healthy gums. The plaque and tartar build up between teeth can cause the gums to be irritated and will eventually cause gingivitis. Flossing helps to prevent gum disease. If your gums bleed or are painful when flossing, this could be the first sign of gum irritation. If this happens, don’t stop flossing. If you floss every day, bleeding and pain should stop after two weeks.
If nothing else convinces you to floss more, just think, it could save you money. Flossing means it’s less likely you’ll have tooth problems and therefore won’t have to pay the dentists to fix them.