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Is Flossing Important?: A Major Aspect in Good Oral Health

Is Flossing Important?: A Major Aspect in Good Oral Health

What makes up your dental hygiene routine? Do you brush and rinse your mouth with a mouthwash? Or do you brush alone? Either way, your routine is probably missing a very important piece of the puzzle: flossing. Is flossing important?

Definitely. Most people don’t really pay attention to flossing. What difference can a piece of string make anyway? Learn more about flossing, and how it can make a world of difference in your overall oral health.

What is Flossing?

Dental floss used in flossing is a thin, soft thread-like material that’s used to clean the parts of the teeth that are harder to reach with a toothbrush. Most dentists and experts recommend flossing daily because a build-up of plaque can lead to tooth decay and other gum diseases.

In fact, almost half of the total surface of your teeth is composed of the space between them. This means that flossing together with brushing is an effective way to thoroughly clean your mouth. Dental floss is an example of an interdental cleaning aid that you can use to reach the nooks and crannies of your teeth that are inaccessible for toothbrushes.

Other examples of interdental cleaning aids that you may use are the following:

Interdental brushes

An interdental brush is a smaller, mini-version of a toothbrush that can reach the spaces between your teeth or even the gum line, which are areas that are prone to plaque accumulation.

Wooden Interdental Aids

Not to be confused with toothpicks, wooden interdental aids are sticks that are especially useful for areas at the front of the mouth. These can be provided for older adults or patients, as these are used much like a toothpick.

Oral irrigators

These devices are also known as water picks. They’re especially useful for cleaning areas below the gum line but aren’t very effective at reducing plaque that are usually stuck to the tooth’s surfaces.

There are different types of interdental cleaning aids that can best suit your needs especially if flossing isn’t comfortable for you. One of the main reasons why people forget or choose not to floss is because it’s a challenging task for many.

Benefits of Flossing

Flossing is definitely something that you have to get used to doing especially if you haven’t been doing it for most of your life.

Here’s how flossing can benefit your mouth and your overall health:

1. Flossing gets rid of plaque

Plaque is a sticky layer of bacteria on your teeth that release harmful acids whenever you eat something that contains sugar. Over time, these acids can damage the tooth’s enamel. This is known as tooth decay.

Plaque is usually colorless, which means that your teeth aren’t exactly clean just because they look spotless after a brush. Plaque might still be left on the teeth’s surfaces, and even in the spaces where your toothbrush can’t reach.

Flossing regularly can add an extra layer of protection against damage caused by plaque. It can also help prevent tartar, which is an accumulation of hardened plaque that can appear yellow or brown in color. Tartar will not only ruin your smile, but also cost you a trip to the dentist.

2. Flossing prevents gum disease (periodontitis)

Floss is able to reach areas below the gum line where bacteria can accumulate. If plaque hardens below or along the gumline, it can cause gingivitis which is a mild form of gum disease. This causes irritation in the areas of the gums that surround your teeth.

If gingivitis is not treated, it can cause periodontitis which is an infection that can cause pockets of bacteria to grow between the gums and the teeth. This can result in tooth loss. Flossing can help prevent this.

3. Flossing affects your overall health

Gum disease has been linked to chronic heart disease. Periodontitis (or gum disease) can increase the levels of inflammation in the body which can make a person more likely to encounter problems with their heart health. Data even shows that people with gum disease are more at risk of having a heart attack or any cardiovascular disease.

Aside from that, gum disease can also affect lung conditions in the elderly and is associated with premature births in pregnant women. By flossing, you’re actually reducing your risk of developing serious conditions.

How to Prevent Tooth Decay

Things You Should Know About Flossing

If you’ve never flossed before, don’t be surprised if your gums start bleeding when you floss. This is normal and will go away once your gums become stronger and more resistant.

You don’t have to floss every time you brush your teeth. It’s recommended that a person flosses once a day. Choose a time where you know you can spare a few seconds to get the job done well.

Here are additional flossing tips that may be helpful:

  • Never reuse floss. This can reintroduce more bacteria into your mouth.
  • Be gentle. Opt for a gentle-rocking motion to slide the floss thread between your teeth. Make sure to follow the curve of your gum line.
  • If floss doesn’t feel right, try using other brands. There are flosses that are rough in texture, while there are some that are soft and silky. If you’re having difficulty flossing, it might be better for you to use floss holders. This is a kind of tool that can make flossing easier.
  • Floss before you brush your teeth. It’s actually better to floss before you brush with fluoridated toothpaste so that you don’t remove the fluoride from the interdental spaces. Also, when using fluoride toothpaste, spit instead of rinsing out after brushing.

Key Takeaways

Maintaining your oral health with brushing isn’t enough. It only takes a couple of seconds to properly floss your teeth. Doing this can already make a world of difference for your health.

Learn more about Oral Health here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

New survey highlights unusual flossing habits, https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2017-archive/october/new-survey-highlights-unusual-flossing-habits, Accessed Dec 21, 2020 Benefits of flossing, https://www.oglf.org/benefits-of-flossing/, Accessed Dec 21, 2020 Plaque, https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/p/plaque, Accessed Dec 21, 2020 Why should I use dental floss?, https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/dental-health/why-should-i-use-dental-floss/, Accessed Dec 21, 2020 Floss, https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/floss, Accessed Dec 21, 2020
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Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos Updated Mar 26, 2021
Medically reviewed by Grazielle Millo-Paderes, DDM, MSc