Proper tooth brushing helps to remove food debris and plaque -- a sticky, colorless film of bacteria -- from your tooth's surfaces. However, even if you brush your teeth thoroughly and often, your mouth might not be as clean as you think.
Tooth brushing alone only cleans about 65 percent of your tooth's surfaces, so it's important to ensure your oral hygiene routine incorporates more than just tooth brushing. Fortunately, there is a simple solution. When used along with tooth brushing, flossing can help you take care of your mouth and improve your oral health, as long as you’re using an effective flossing technique.
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Why Flossing Is Important
Flossing is important because it helps to clean the tight spaces between your teeth and below your gum line that tooth brushing alone can't reach. If not removed through regular flossing, plaque and food debris can build up in these spaces, causing tooth decay and gum disease. These two conditions can lead to loose teeth and tooth loss when left untreated.
How Often You Should Floss
The American Dental Association recommends that you floss your teeth at least once a day. You can floss before or after tooth brushing, so pick a time that works for you and make it a part of your daily oral hygiene routine.
5 Steps to Effective Flossing
Daily flossing is important, but it's equally important to use the correct tools and technique. Before you begin flossing, be sure to select the right type of floss for you. Floss is available in a range of sizes, materials, and flavors designed to meet different oral hygiene needs. A consultation with your dentist should help you decide on the best floss for your situation.
Once you have chosen the right floss for you, follow these five steps to floss your teeth effectively.
- Take 45 centimeters (18 inches) of floss and loosely wind both ends of the floss around your middle fingers, leaving 1-2 inches of floss between each hand.
- Holding the floss tautly between your forefingers and thumbs, gently slide the floss down between two teeth. When inserting the floss, remember to go slowly and avoid using excessive force.
- Curve the floss around the base of your tooth, then gently move the floss upward from your gum line to the top of your tooth. This will help to remove plaque and food debris from in between your teeth and below your gum line.
- Repeat the process for each tooth, using a clean section of floss as you move from tooth to tooth. Work your way from one side of your mouth to the other, making sure you floss between every tooth.
- Once you've finished flossing, throw the floss in the trash. Used floss won't clean your teeth effectively and could re-introduce bacteria into your mouth.
You may experience some minor gum bleeding and discomfort when you first use floss. This is normal and usually goes away on its own after about a week or two. If the bleeding is heavy or persists for longer than two weeks, see your dentist.
Practicing proper flossing is an important part of maintaining good oral health at home. If you find flossing difficult despite following these tips, or you need help choosing the right type of floss for your needs, consult the team here at Main Street Dental Clinics for advice.