Healthy Gums and Teeth With Dental Flossing

We’ve all heard it at every dental appointment – dental flossing is an important part of keeping our teeth healthy, our smiles looking good. We know that. Yet most of us don’t do it!

Hardly sensible, as flossing does about 40% of the work in removing the bacteria (also known as plaque) stuck on our teeth. Dentists will tell you that each tooth in your head has five different surfaces and if you don’t floss, you’re leaving at least two of them without being cleaned. The plaque that’s left is known to generate acid, and this causes cavities, gum irritation and can even bring on gum disease.

Gum disease beyond being bad for your teeth and really takes a toll on the looks of your smile too. It eats away at your gums and teeth, attacking the bones that support your teeth (as well as the lower third of your face). If you keep these bones healthy (by flossing), you tend to look better around the mouth as you get older.

So, now you’re convinced. Just how to do you do it?

Start by choosing a floss that you’ll actually use. Most types are made of nylon or Teflon, but those who have larger spaces between their teeth (or suffer from gum recession) get better results with wide, flat dental tape.

If your teeth are super close together, try the floss that calls itself shred resistant for best results. If you have bridges or braces, you need to get underneath, and this calls for a floss threader (looks a lot like a plastic sewing needle) or try Super Floss, a product with one stiff end to feed the floss through the teeth, followed by a spongy section and then regular floss for cleaning.

Many of us wonder at our technique… what’s the right way to floss?

Here are some tips:

– You want a piece of floss that’s from 15 to 18 inches long. Slide it between your teeth then wrap the floss around each tooth in the shape of a “C,” and use a sawing motion that rubs the floss up and down on the tooth.

– Establish a regular routine and time for flossing, for example first thing in the morning or before bedtime so you’re less likely to forget. Or, floss your top teeth in the morning, bottom in the evening if you’re short on time.

– Don’t worry about a little blood. Blood isn’t a sign to stop flossing, but rather that bacteria have taken up residence between your teeth and need to be removed. Bleeding that lingers after a few days or regular flossing could be a sign of periodontal disease, and requires the attention of your dentist.

– If you don’t have the hand dexterity to floss, try soft wooden plaque removers that look like toothpicks. A two-pronged plastic floss holder can also be a great help.

Beyond helping your smile, keeping your teeth clean and freshening your breath, flossing can also help you live longer according to researchers at Harvard Medical School. Evidence also exists that links poor gum health with heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and low birth weight babies born of non-flossing mothers.

The American Dental Association recommends both regular brushing and dental flossing for optimal oral hygiene.