Imagine you are preparing to go on vacation to a deserted island (because you have the world’s worst travel agent), and you can only bring a toothbrush or floss to clean your teeth. Which would you choose?
Dentists worldwide will tell you both are important to good dental health. If you have to make a choice, however, keep the floss and leave the brush at home.
Flossing is considered more important for dental care for several reasons. Besides, it is easier to pack a roll of floss than it is a toothbrush.
Floss Goes Where Brushes Can’t
Flossing allows you to clean in between the teeth. The sides of teeth are curved and do permit the brush to get most of the surface of the teeth, but the area where the teeth touch is hard for a brush to reach.
These tight areas are where food gets stuck and plaque begins to form. They harbor the bacteria that turns into plaque and help the growth of cavities and gum disease.
Flossing Your Teeth is Half the Job
Studies show that between 40 and 50 percent of the sticky bacteria that lines your teeth is removed by regular flossing. This is the same bacteria that causes cavities and disease. Flossing will scrape a large part of that film off the small areas between teeth and at the gum line.
Flossing Can Be Icky at First
Many people will experience a little bleeding from around the gums when they first add flossing to their dental regimen. This is normal as long as the amount of blood is small and it doesn’t last longer than a week or so.
The bleeding is caused by weak gum tissue being stimulated by the floss. After a few times of flossing, the tissue will become stronger, and the bleeding should stop.
If the bleeding does not stop, or is excessive, see your dentist. It could be a sign you have a more serious dental problem.
You Have Choices
You are not limited to string floss. There are other aids you can use that will give you the same results. Some people find it hard to floss, so they use dental picks, two-pronged floss holders, and rubber tips attached to an angled handle. These tools are all good substitutes as long as you can clean between the teeth and stimulate the gums.
The Flossing Secret
The secret to flossing is to do it on a regular basis with a brand of floss you like. Find tools you are comfortable with, because the best dental instruments in the world won’t work if you don’t use them.
Explore and experiment with what is available on the market, ask your dentist for recommendations, and keep at it for the rest of your life. Tooth decay shouldn’t stop you from keeping your same set of teeth for the rest of your life.
One More Reason To Floss On A Deserted Island
There is one last, and important, reason to floss every day: flossing helps prevent bad breath. Should your deserted island become a little less empty because of that special someone in your life showing up, you want your breath to be fresh and inviting.
Dr Gerald O’Connor is the principal dentist and owner of Killiney Dental. Dr O’Connor graduated with an honours dental degree from University College Cork in 1998. He has since worked as a general dental surgeon in the UK and Ireland and has over 20 years experience in the dental field, with a particular interest in cosmetic and restorative dentistry. Dr O’Connor is an active member of the Irish Dental Association, sitting on its Quality Patient Safety Committee, and is a Irish Dental Council registered dentist.