Does flossing matter?
Do you floss after every meal? Do you floss at least once a day before bed? Do you skip flossing until it feels like a piece of popcorn is stuck between your teeth? Do you even remember the last time that you flossed? These questions may seem silly and even unimportant if you’re not sure if flossing really matters to the health of your teeth and gums.
But, in truth, flossing should be just as important a part of your home oral hygiene habits as brushing and using mouthwash. Wondering why? We’re breaking down the importance of flossing and some of the potential concerns that can come to light if you don’t floss.
Why is flossing important?
The benefits of flossing extend past the removal of food particles between your teeth after eating popcorn or other things that tend to get stuck after eating them. Your dental professional will certainly strongly encourage you to floss after eating a meal. But it’s important to consider the other benefits of this important step in your oral hygiene routine.
Some of the benefits of flossing include the following:
- Removing not just food debris from between your teeth but also reducing plaque that is between the teeth. Flossing can also help to remove food debris and plaque along the gum line, in areas where a toothbrush is unable to reach.
- More thorough removal of bacteria that can be responsible for bad breath than you’ll achieve with brushing alone.
- Removing plaque that forms below the gumline. This plaque can erode the enamel of the tooth and potentially develop into tartar.
- Routine flossing can reduce the potential for swelling, redness, and soreness in the gums.
- Helps to prevent gingivitis, which can potentially lead to the loss of once-healthy teeth.
These benefits are such an important part of ensuring the health of your teeth and gums.
What happens if you don’t floss?
Studies have shown that a surprising number of adults don’t include flossing as a regular part of their oral hygiene routine. There are several reasons that your dentist and hygienist recommend that you floss at least once daily. Learning more about them may lead you to think twice about skipping flossing before you turn in for the night.
- Gum disease. When you skip flossing, even if you brush well twice a day, plaque may build up between each of your teeth, or at or below your gum line. This can lead to gingivitis, which is the earliest stage of gum disease. Gingivitis can result in irritated, swollen, and bleeding gums. If not treated, the bacteria in the plaque can infect your gums, and teeth, and also move into the bone in your jaw.
- Gum disease can potentially result in the loss of one or more teeth. In many cases, gum disease can be treated. If it’s progressed too far, however, you may need to have more extensive work done.
- Gum recession can expose the roots of your teeth, which may also lead to tooth sensitivity. It can also expose your teeth to more bacteria.
Remember that the health of your teeth and gums is closely linked to the health of your body as a whole. An untreated infection in a tooth or in your gums may lead to other physical complications, including pneumonia and heart concerns.
Does the type of floss matter?
There are so many floss types on the market. Which one is right for you? If you have questions about your floss options, mention it to your dentist at your next appointment.
Broadly speaking, most types of floss will help you to get the results that you need. Some of the options that you have include:
- Waxed floss. As the name implies, waxed floss has a very thin layer of wax covering it. This may make it slightly thicker than unwaxed floss, but it can also help to make the floss glide easier between your teeth. Waxed floss is more likely to be flavored, which makes it a fun choice.
- Unwaxed floss. There is no wax covering on unwaxed floss, which makes it slightly thinner than its waxed counterpart. It can be a more comfortable choice for those who have very tight spaces between their teeth.
- Floss picks. Floss picks are a popular choice for people who are always on the go or like to ensure that they can floss with ease after every meal.
- Air flossers and water flossers. There are many options to choose from, each offering its own pros and cons. Your hygienist may be able to recommend an air or water flosser for you to use at home.
Remember that it is important for children to develop healthy flossing habits early on. There are floss options, including floss picks, made to help encourage children to get into a flossing habit. They’re often brightly colored and flavored with options that may appeal to young children.
When should you floss?
How often should you be flossing and is any one time better than the other? Most dental professionals agree that, in an ideal world, you’d be flossing after every meal. That said, it’s not always realistic to floss after each meal. At the very least, you should be flossing once a day, preferably when you brush your teeth before bedtime.
Floss before you brush your teeth so that you can help to loosen any lingering food debris before you brush and before you use mouthwash.
If it’s been some time since you flossed, it’s not unexpected to see blood when you rinse your mouth. If the bleeding continues, be sure to check in with your dentist so that you can get the health of your teeth and gums evaluated. As mentioned, bleeding can be a sign of gingivitis (the early stage of gum disease). The sooner that you get your teeth and gums examined, the sooner a treatment program can be started.
It’s never too late to start a new and healthy flossing habit. If you have questions about flossing, the best floss to use, or other questions related to the health of your teeth and gums, be sure to speak to your dentist or dental hygienist at your next appointment.