It’s almost the new year, which means that it’s time to start thinking about your resolutions. How many times have you told yourself that you’re going to make a habit of flossing? It’s an important habit, but it’s one that often falls by the wayside. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Do I need to floss?” The answer is yes. Flossing regularly should definitely be on your list of new year’s resolutions. Before you get started, here’s our guide on how to floss properly.
Different Types of Floss
Nylon or multifilament floss is composed of many strands of nylon woven together. Since it is made up of so many strands, it runs the risk of tearing or shredding, especially if your teeth are tightly spaced. Nylon floss is available in waxed and unwaxed varieties and comes in multiple flavors. Flavored floss can be a great option for children who may be otherwise reluctant. There are standard flavors like mint, but you can also find fun flavors like bubblegum and strawberry.
PTFE or monofilament floss is more expensive than nylon floss, but it’s a great alternative for those who often experience shredding with nylon floss. PTFE floss is virtually shred-resistant, and it slides easily through the tightest gaps.
If you’re wondering, do I need to floss with a certain type of floss? Don’t worry — no matter which type of floss you choose, they’re both just as effective at removing plaque and food debris. Similarly, waxed floss and unwaxed floss are equally as effective, so simply choose the type of floss that works best for you.
How to Floss
You should floss your teeth once a day. Although many people like flossing after brushing, it’s actually better to floss before your brush. This allows the flouride in your toothpaste to more effectively get in between your teeth. The American Dental Association recommends flossing for 2 to 3 minutes. Just like with teeth brushing, there are some best practices that you should follow to make sure you’re flossing correctly:
- Take about 18 inches of floss, and wrap most of it around each middle finger. Leave about 2 to 3 inches to work with.
- Hold the floss taut between your thumbs and forefingers.
- Gently slide the floss between your teeth, moving it up and down in between each tooth.
- At the base of each tooth, gently curve the floss into a “C” shape around the tooth. Move the floss up and down to clean the area.
- Repeat this process for each tooth, using a clean section of floss each time.
After you’ve completed every step of our how to floss guide, be sure to rinse your mouth with mouthwash or water. Rinsing your mouth after flossing can help remove any stray food or plaque particles that may have been dislodged while you flossed.
Using a chlorhexidine mouthwash is recommended, since it will destroy any lingering bacteria in the mouth. It also creates a protective barrier around the teeth and gums to help prevent any new buildup.
Things to Avoid While Flossing
In addition to making sure that you perform all of the right steps of how to floss, you need to be sure to avoid all the wrong things.
- Don’t be concerned if there’s a little bleeding. Light bleeding often indicates that your teeth simply need to be flossed more often, and the bleeding will subside once flossing becomes a habit.
- Don’t snap the floss down to your gums. Be gentle as you move it up and down.
- Don’t wrap the floss around more than one tooth at a time. This won’t clean the gums as efficiently.
- Don’t forget to floss your back molars. Gum disease and tooth decay often occur on the back teeth, so keeping them free from plaque is important.
- Don’t floss too often. While flossing once a day is key to keeping your teeth and gums healthy, overdoing it can irritate your sensitive gums.
The Benefits of Flossing
So many people wonder, “Why do I need to floss every day?” There are a lot of benefits to flossing. The first and most obvious is that flossing removes plaque. If plaque builds up on your teeth and gums, it can lead to a whole host of problems, including tooth decay and gum disease.
Tooth decay occurs when bacteria on your teeth creates acids that eat away at your teeth. Tooth decay eventually leads to cavities. If left untreated, tooth decay can cause even more severe problems like pain, infection, and even loss of the tooth. Children are especially prone to tooth decay since their teeth are not as strong as adult teeth, and it’s easier for bacteria to eat away at them.
Flossing also helps prevent gingivitis and gum disease. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums that usually precedes gum disease. It’s caused by a buildup of bacteria and plaque that causes the gums to swell and bleed easily while brushing and flossing. If left untreated, it can lead to gum disease.
Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, causes the inner layer of the gum and bone to pull away from the teeth, which leads to the formation of pockets. These pockets can collect debris and become infected. Your body will try to fight the infection as the plaque spreads below the gumline. Certain toxins from the bacteria as well as from your body’s natural immune response cause the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place to break down. As the condition progresses, the bone and gum are destroyed. This means that there’s nothing holding your teeth and place, and they will eventually fall out.
Plaque is the leading cause of gum disease. By learning how to floss properly, you can fight against the damaging effects of plaque.
Another benefit of learning how to floss properly is that it forces you to take a good look at your teeth and gums every day. Monitoring your oral health for any noticeable changes can help you identify symptoms of conditions like cancers, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, and eating disorders, which can cause lesions in your mouth and redness and swelling of the gums.
If you’re experiencing any unusual oral symptoms, always make an appointment with your dentist. Catching problems in their early stages is the best way to treat them effectively.
Alternatives to Traditional Flossing
If you already know how to floss but you just can’t get yourself to do it regularly, consider trying something besides traditional flossing. There are lots of options and gadgets that clean your teeth and gums in a similar way, but may work better for you. These options include:
- Floss holders: Floss holders are small, “Y” shaped devices that are ideal for people who have trouble holding floss. You thread the floss through the device and then use the device to floss.
- Floss picks: Floss picks are disposable floss holders. They’re not quite as environmentally-friendly as reusable floss holders, but they’re often a good option for children who dislike dealing with handling floss.
- Super floss: Super floss has three different components which can making flossing easier for those with orthodontic devices or spacing issues. Super floss has a stiff end to floss under braces or other devices, a spongy floss for cleaning wide spaces, and regular floss for cleaning between teeth.
- Floss threaders: Floss threaders are designed to make it easy to floss under braces, bridges, or other orthodontic work. It can be very difficult to learn how to floss around these devices without a threader, so if you or your child has orthodontic work, floss threaders can be a real game changer.
- Water picks: Water picks, also known as water flossers, are an alternative to traditional dental floss. These devices use pressurized water to clean between the gaps of teeth. While they do tend to be a bit on the pricey side, you won’t have to buy floss anymore. These can be particularly effective for people struggling to properly floss around their orthodontic work.
If you or your child has trouble using regular flossing methods, definitely consider using an alternative method. These have all the benefits of traditional floss, like removing built-up plaque, but make the process simpler and more enjoyable. Finding a method that you actually like doing will make you more likely stick to the habit, too.
Getting your family into a regular routine of flossing is an easy way to improve your oral hygiene. Your teeth are something you have for your whole life, so it’s incredibly important to give them the best care possible! Of course, in addition of learning how to floss, regular dentist visits should be a part of your new year’s resolutions. Make your child’s next dentist appointment by contacting us at Children’s Dentistry today.