You probably know the cardinal rule of good oral health: brush and floss your teeth every day. But we get it. Flossing can feel daunting on top of brushing twice daily. It’s a lot of cleaning for a full set of teeth! And this is the exact reason that many patients skip out on their flossing routine until a problem, such as tooth decay or gingivitis, occurs.
Wondering why it is important to floss your teeth? The team at our Naperville general dentistry and specialty practice is covering everything you need to know about dental floss — why to use it, how to use it and the health consequences that may arise if you don’t.
Why floss your teeth?
Every tooth has five surfaces, and the average toothbrush (no matter how skilled you are at wielding it) can only adequately reach three of those surfaces. Unfortunately, the space in between the teeth where a toothbrush can’t fit is where food tends to get stuck.
When food is left in these crevices, it creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. This, in turn, creates plaque, which is a sticky bacterial film. As plaque accumulates between the teeth and under the gumline, irritation and infection can occur. Flossing is essential to your oral health toolkit since it fits into these problem areas to banish plaque and prevent infection.
The benefits of flossing your teeth
Daily flossing has a number of benefits to your breath, oral health and overall well-being. Some of the most significant benefits of flossing your teeth include:
- Preventing gingivitis, which, when left untreated, can progress into advanced gum disease, called periodontitis;
- Removing the food particles and bacteria that brushing can’t reach;
- Preventing bad breath;
- Reducing the frequency of sore, puffy or tender gums;
- Removing plaque from beneath the gum line that can erode enamel;
- Reducing the risk of developing cavities.
How often should you floss your teeth?
It is recommended that you floss at least once a day to remove food debris, prevent plaque build-up and ward off tooth decay and gum disease. Using a water flosser is a beneficial extra step in your oral hygiene routine, but it doesn’t replace regular flossing, and you’ll still need to floss once per day with dental floss.
It’s important to keep in mind that plaque constantly forms and, therefore, it must constantly be removed. It’s not enough to floss here and there. It’s something you should commit to daily for life to maximize the health of your teeth and gums.
How to floss your teeth
A big benefit of routine dental cleanings is they provide you with the opportunity to learn how to floss your teeth properly. If you are not flossing correctly, you may not get the most out of your dental routine!
Here’s how to floss so you can avoid gum disease and maintain the healthiest mouth possible:
- Use enough floss.
There’s nothing more annoying than breaking off a too-small string of dental floss and having to get your hands in your mouth. Cut off about 18 inches of floss and wrap it around one of your middle fingers (or whichever finger feels most comfortable). Wind the remaining floss around the same finger of the opposite hand. This finger will guide the floss through your teeth.
- Keep it tight!
Hold the floss taught between your fingers — a saggy string of floss isn’t going to do much and it will give you less control.
- Be gentle.
Guide the floss between your teeth in a gentle seesaw motion. Make sure you never snap the floss up into your gums.
- Use a C shape.
Once the floss reaches your gum line, use your two fingers to curve it into a C shape against one tooth. Slide the floss up and down against the side of the tooth, getting under the gumline. Then, repeat the process on the other tooth.
- Move on to the next pair of teeth.
Use the same gentle seesaw motion to remove the floss from in between the teeth and work it in between the next pair of teeth. Use a clean section of floss for each area.
- Don’t forget any teeth!
Be sure to floss the outside of the back molars too. Even though this side of the molar doesn’t come into contact with another tooth, food and bacteria can still get stuck around the gumline.
What’s the best dental floss to use?
The best dental floss is any one that you’re able to use effectively on a daily basis. A string floss tends to slide in between teeth more easily. Listerine® Ultraclean® floss, formerly called Reach floss, is a great option that has some texture to it that helps remove more debris. Or if you have sensitive teeth and gums or tight spaces, a product like Oral-B Glide® floss is a gentle choice.
For those with orthodontic braces or a dental bridge, a floss threader will allow you to maneuver string floss under your appliance or restoration. Some patients prefer SuperFloss™, however, as it has a built-in threader, eliminating the extra step.
If you have mobility issues that make flossing with traditional floss tough, floss picks may be helpful. The floss is already attached to the disposable pick and doesn’t need to be wrapped around your fingers.
Looking for an all-natural dental floss? Cocofloss and Boka floss are two fan favorites that don’t contain PFAs or parabens.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is an infection of the gum tissue caused by plaque bacteria. Plaque that is not removed with daily brushing and flossing can eventually harden into calculus, or tartar. When tartar build-up spreads below the gum line, it is nearly impossible to clean your teeth properly. At this stage, only a dental professional can remove the tartar.
Poor oral hygiene often leads to gum disease, however, some people are more prone to this condition than others, even with brushing and flossing.
The breakdown of your gum tissues happens gradually. Most people don’t experience pain in the early stages of gum disease, which is called gingivitis. This really highlights the importance of regular dental exams and cleanings.
Some of the warning signs and symptoms of gum disease include:
- Gum soreness;
- Darker gums (reddish/purplish in color);
- Unpleasant taste in your mouth;
- Bleeding gums;
- Discomfort or pain when chewing;
- Loose teeth;
- Bad breath (halitosis);
- Gum recession (gums that start to pull away from your teeth).
What are the consequences of gum disease?
Gum disease can destroy the tooth-supporting tissue and bone, causing the teeth to loosen and, in severe cases, fall out.
In fact, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss. The CDC reports that almost half of all adults in the United States (47.2%) have some form of periodontal disease.
But our oral health affects everything in our body. This is because inflammation and infection in the mouth, like that caused by periodontal disease, doesn’t always stay in the mouth. Studies have also shown a link between gum disease and other systemic diseases. Research suggests that gum disease may contribute to the progression of diseases such as:
This chronic health condition has the strongest two-way link with gum disease. Research shows that people with type 2 diabetes have a three-fold greater risk of developing gum disease than those without. Periodontitis worsens the diabetic body’s ability to control blood sugar levels.
Gum disease has been linked to increasing the risk of heart disease and exacerbating existing heart conditions.
When gum disease is aggressive and left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. Tooth loss is a largely overlooked risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline.
Countless studies have linked various cancers to periodontal disease. Research found that men who suffer from gum disease were 30% more likely to develop blood cancers, 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer and 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
Additionally, gum disease in pregnant people is tied to premature birth and low birth weight.
Diligent oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups with your Naperville dentist can help you prevent gum disease or ensure it’s caught in its earliest stages. When gum disease is detected and treated at this point, it’s still reversible.
Once gum disease turns into periodontitis, it can’t be cured. However, with professional treatment, it can be controlled to stop the infection and keep further tissue and bone loss at bay.
Connect with a dentist in Naperville
Now that you know why it is important to floss your teeth, are you ready to level up your oral health and keep your teeth and gums in top-notch shape? At Naperville Dental Specialists, our team is happy to educate our patients on the best way to care for their oral health and offer personalized guidance.
Whether you need an exam and cleaning or treatment for periodontal disease, get your healthiest smile by scheduling an appointment with a Naperville dentist today!