Why Do I Need To Floss?
When patients think of taking care of their teeth, most think that brushing twice per day is good enough to maintain their overall oral health. While brushing your teeth twice a day accounts for a substantial part of your oral health, it needs to be paired with flossing.
Unlike brushing your teeth, the Canadian Dental Association recommends flossing teeth once per day. Most dental patients choose to floss their teeth at night to rid their teeth and gums of the plaque that builds up in between teeth over the course of a day. Flossing at night also gives patients more time to floss properly as opposed to the morning when they are likely rushed to get out of the house and off to work.
Brushing your teeth and flossing in between them are essential to removing any plaque. Plaque is the bacteria that develops on the teeth throughout the day from eating and drinking. It settles on the teeth as a soft, invisible film that isn’t visible to the naked eye, but is definitely noticeable for the individual. Plaque that is not removed from the teeth produce acids that cause the enamel of the tooth to break down. It eventually builds into a substance called calculus, which can only be removed by a dentist during a dental cleaning.
All teeth are made of tissue, which include enamel on the surface, dentin below the surface, pulp that connects the teeth to nerves, and cementum that covers the root of the tooth and keeps it in place with the jawbone. Once the enamel of the tooth begins to wear away, the tooth becomes susceptible to more damage of the dentin, pulp and cementum. If plaque isn’t removed, it not only wears away enamel but can also lead to gingivitis, which is the inflammation of the gum line and is an early indicator of periodontal (gum) disease.
Where Does Plaque Build Up?
To ensure that enamel doesn’t erode and gingivitis does not build plaque needs to be removed from the surface of the teeth as well as in between teeth, which is why brushing alone is not enough. Although the bristles of a toothbrush are quite thin and can get to larger pieces of food and plaque that may be along the gum line, they cannot always reach the spots between teeth where food and plaque can be lodged. If you want to see where plaque builds up and just how much of it is between the teeth and the gum line, visit your local pharmacy and pick up disclosing tablets. Disclosing tablets are chewable with a special vegetable dye that temporarily stains the plaque in a visible colour so that you can see where the plaque is building up. There are also plaque disclosing swabs and mouthwash solutions if you cannot use a chewable tablet.
Now that you can see where the plaque builds up, you can understand just how important it is to keep up with brushing and flossing.
When Patients Don’t Floss
Patients neglect to floss their teeth because they think it is an unnecessary step for their oral health, or because they find the process involves too much work and dexterity. These are not viable excuses to avoid flossing your teeth as both dentists maintain the stance that flossing is essential to maintaining oral health.
By not flossing, your gum line can become inflamed which leads to more dental problems and health problems over time. The generation of periodontal disease, if left for too long, can prove irreversible and patients may lose their teeth, resulting in the need for dental implants or dental bridges.
How Can I Floss My Teeth?
There are a few different methods for flossing your teeth. Choose the flossing method that is best for your mouth, dexterity and setting for the best results.
1) The Traditional String of Floss
With this method, all you need is a canister of floss and your two hands. To get the right length of floss, measure it using the distance between your hand and shoulder. Cut the floss and wrap each end around your index fingers, leaving approximately two inches between your hands.
Once you have a steady grip, gently slide the piece of floss in between your teeth, making sure to curve in at the base of each tooth near the gum line, then wipe the tooth from the bottom to the top. Keep going with this method until you get through all your teeth, on each side of the tooth. Patients typically work on the lower teeth first and then move on to the upper teeth, and it helps keep a pattern each time you floss. If you’re picking up plaque and other particles on the floss, gently slide the section away from your grip and use a clean section.
String floss also comes in a variety of coatings. The most popular choice is Nylon floss which combines multiple threats of nylon together in one string. The only downside to Nylon floss is that it can sometimes split and break when there are tight spaces between teeth and contact points. That’s why some people choose single filament floss (PTFE) because it cannot be torn as easily.
2) Water Piques or Water Flossers
For those who may not have the dexterity to use string floss, water piques or water flossers are the perfect flossing solution. Water piques use a pressurized flow of water to push out plaque from in between teeth and the gum line.
They should be held at a 90-degree angle to the gum line. To begin, focus on getting the front of your upper and lower teeth by working your water pique through from back from front and back again. Next, reposition the water pique head so that it angles inwards towards the back of your teeth, still at a 90-degree angle. Keep your lips wrapped around the water pique so that water doesn’t splash everywhere, but leave a little opening so that water and plaque can drain out into the sink below.
3) Floss Sticks
First, please keep in mind that floss sticks aren’t an alternative to string floss and water piques. Floss sticks are much smaller and rigid as they keep a taught line of floss in between a curved piece of plastic. With that said, floss sticks are the perfect way to floss your teeth on the go. If you have pieces of food stuck in your teeth after a meal out or while snacking, having floss sticks with you are much more preferable than wedging a fingernail or a piece of hair in between your teeth.
4) Floss Threader
This is an important flossing tool when it comes to flossing with braces or other orthodontic appliances. Floss threaders are usually a plastic disposable loop with a pointy end that allows the user to thread a piece of string floss through the loop and carefully push the point through the narrow gaps between teeth. Once the string of floss is through the teeth, the user can floss each tooth as per usual, re-looping the floss in between each tooth as they go along. Again, depending on how narrow the spaces are between teeth, the floss threader may be too wide to get through and a water pique may be a better solution.
For patients with orthodontic appliances, our Guelph Dentist Office makes sure to demonstrate how to floss with the appliances. We know that it can be a bit trickier with the added pieces of metal in your mouth, but it becomes even more important to floss, as there are a plethora of places for plaque to hide.
When Flossing is Irritating the Gums Frequently
If you are not a regular flosser, the first few times you floss your teeth may lead to bleeding or irritated gums. If after a couple of weeks this does not stop, it is important to book an appointment with our Guelph Dentist Office so we can examine if there are underlying causes for bleeding and irritation such as gum disease or rotting teeth.
Should you have any questions about flossing or what areas of your mouth you should focus on, feel free to ask during your dental cleaning or complete oral examination. The Stonegate Dental team will take the time to talk you through and demonstrate how you should be flossing and if there are any precautions you should take.