There’s a lot of folks who dread going to visit their dentist; some are worried about gum sensitivity, others simply can’t find the time, and there’s always some people with dental fear. A number of potential patients hesitate about getting their teeth checked for fear of a simple question: “How often do you floss?” the answer to which is a mumbled, “Oh, sometimes”. You know the dentist is going to ask you how often you take the thread to your teeth, and you know that whatever answer you give them, it’s probably not frequently enough. Dentists aren’t asking you this question for no reason, though; there are myriad benefits to flossing at least once a day.
Flossing allows you to clean the surfaces between your teeth, which are inaccessible by brushing. There are estimates that predict flossing accounts for about 40% of the cleaning your teeth need every day; that stands to reason, since your teeth have 5 brushable surfaces, only three of which can be touched by a toothbrush. Regular flossing will help prevent gum disease, which can affect the underlying bone structure of your mouth; that means squeaking that thin filament through your mouth can help you look younger and healthier for longer. Periodontal disease is also a serious risk for your long-term health, so prevention is key.
There are a great many people who hesitate when it comes to flossing because it makes their gums bleed, or because it hurts. Know that the bleeding is generally caused by inflammation of the gums, and that flossing will actually reduce the amount of bleeding and sensitivity over time. That means the more you floss, the less you’ll see blood, and that if your gums are healthy, you shouldn’t see any blood at all. After flossing for some time, if you continue to see blood, it’s a good sign that you have more severe gum disease; it’s important at that point to visit a recognized dental office and ensure that your mouth isn’t experiencing more severe problems.
Flossing can be inconvenient for some people because they find it uncomfortable or difficult. There are soft flosses for those with sensitive teeth, which can help reduce discomfort; test out a couple of different floss types, and find one that slides easily between your teeth. Those with dexterity problems may instead opt for a floss holder or wooden plaque remover; these allow you to floss with only one hand, reducing the barrier to those who would otherwise have difficulty. Electric flossers are also available; this can be especially helpful if you’re not sure of how much pressure to apply when flossing.
Having a good oral health routine is essential for teaching children about oral care; our kids have a tendency to mimic what we do, so enforce the habit of regular flossing early by doing it yourself. Should you have any questions about flossing technique, talk to your dentist; they can help you perfect your own technique, as well as give you tips on how to teach your kids.