How many times have you been to the dentist and been asked: “Are you flossing?” You probably ask yourself “why is it so important” and “what’s the point of doing it every day”? Flossing removes food and plaque caught in between the teeth that if left there can harden into calculus (aka tartar). Calculus can only be removed by a dentist, oral hygienist or oral health therapist.
Calculus harbours bacteria that can cause bad breath, infections, and gum disease. Food and plaque trapped in between your teeth can also lead to tooth decay and in severe cases tooth loss.
Flossing should be done at least once a day to prevent problems and keep oral hygiene optimal. It is best to fit it into a routine (e.g. once at night before brushing). Whether flossing is done before or after brushing is not critical, and there are no studies to prove one way is better than the other.
Some people avoid flossing as there may be some bleeding or discomfort. This is a sign of gum inflammation (caused by not brushing and flossing effectively) and gradually decreases over a period of time if flossing is done every day. Flossing is a vital part of your oral hygiene routine to lessen the risk of infections.
There are a few tools you can use to clean between the teeth:
– Normal flossing string: Using floss from a spool is probably the most commonly used tool. Non-waxed dental floss can pick up more plaque than waxed dental floss, however, for a majority of patients, the waxed variety is much easier to use. It is important to wrap the floss in a ‘C-shape’ around the tooth and bring it all the way below the gumline to ensure optimal cleaning. Floss can actually clean up to 5mm below the gumline!
– Flossettes (floss on a handle): This method is great if you find it tricky to floss due to the dexterity involved or for kids. You can get several varieties including disposable flossettes, handles with disposable flossette heads (Fig 1), or handles which you wrap floss onto (Fig 2). The Reach Access Flosser or Oral-B flossettes are great to use because the design makes it easier to reach the back teeth compared to conventional flossettes (because you come in from the front of the mouth to reach the back teeth with these two products compared to coming in from the side of the mouth).
– Interdental brushes (e.g. Piksters): Interdental brushes (Fig 3) work very well for patients who have gaps between the teeth or where there are concavities on the root of the tooth. It tends to pick up more plaque than flossing and is easier to use, however, it does not clean as well below the gumline.
Some people prefer using certain things over others. As long as you find something that works for you to clean in between your teeth and gums then that is fantastic! If you’re not sure how to floss properly don’t hesitate to ask us the next time you come in. Prevention is always better than a cure. Happy flossing!
If you have any questions about your dental health, feel free to Contacts Us and ask our friendly dental team!