As one of TV’s great doctors put it: Everybody lies. What’s one thing people are most likely to lie about? Whether they actually floss or not. Flossing has gotten a reputation as being a not so pleasant task. But, you need to floss your teeth to take the best care of your mouth and gums. Brushing alone doesn’t do the trick.
If flossing is a chore for you, you could be facing a number difficulties. Many people don’t know how to floss or aren’t using the type of floss that is most comfortable for them.
WHY BOTHER TO FLOSS?
If you want to thoroughly clean your mouth, you need to floss your teeth. Flossing removes any food bits and plaque that can get stuck on the sides of your teeth. While your toothbrush does a fine job of cleaning and polishing the front, back and tops of your teeth, a brush doesn’t reach between the teeth or get to the sides.
If you leave that plaque between your teeth, it hardens into tartar and can irritate the gums, increasing your risk for gum disease, bone loss and even tooth loss.
HOW TO FLOSS YOUR TEETH
There are several things that keep people from flossing. One is a feeling that the process takes too much time. Another is a general dislike for sticking things between the teeth. A third is that some people aren’t sure how to floss or are afraid they will do it incorrectly.
Flossing isn’t difficult, but it can be uncomfortable if you do it wrong or if you choose a type of floss that doesn’t work for you. First, let’s review the best way to floss your teeth:
- Pull out a strand of floss that is about 18 to 24 inches long.
- Wrap most of the floss around the middle finger of one of your hands. Wrap the other end around the middle finger of your other hand.
- Hold the floss between your thumbs and index fingers of both hands, leaving about an inch of floss between your fingers.
- Gently slide the floss between your teeth, rubbing it carefully against the sides of each tooth. Don’t use a lot of pressure or snap the floss between your teeth. Using too much force or pressure will irritate the gums and make flossing uncomfortable.
- Once you’ve cleaned between one pair of teeth, wind the used portion of floss around the middle finger and unwind a small amount from the other finger. Repeat the flossing process with the next teeth.
- Make sure you floss between every tooth, even the teeth in the back of your mouth.
- Discard the floss once you’re finished, as you shouldn’t reuse it.
WHEN TO FLOSS?
Another thing that keeps people from flossing is not being sure when the best time to floss is. You’re meant to brush your teeth in the morning, after waking up, and in the evening, before bed. But when should you floss?
The answer is: It really doesn’t matter. Many people floss at night, after they brush their teeth. But some floss in the morning.
It also doesn’t matter if you floss before you brush or afterwards, as long as you do it. The trick is finding the time of day that works best for you. If you’re usually rushing in the morning, flossing at night might make more sense. If you’re usually bone tired at night and just want to fall into bed and sleep, flossing in the morning might be a lot easier for you.
DO YOU HAVE TO USE FLOSS?
There are two main types of floss available and a variety of similar, floss-like products, such as small brushes meant to clean between the teeth and water piks, which use a pressurized spray of water to rinse the mouth clean.
If using traditional floss is too difficult for you, your dentist might advise using a handheld dental flosser or tiny brushes designed for use between the teeth.
If you decide to use regular floss, you can choose between monofilament or multifilament floss. Monofilament floss is one single strand. It’s often called comfort or easy glide floss because it tends to fit between the teeth easier and without shredding. People with teeth that are very close together tend to prefer it, as multifilament floss can get stuck or shred when used between tight teeth. Monofilament floss is more expensive than multifilament, or nylon, floss, but if it gets you to floss your teeth, the extra expense can be worth it.
At your next teeth cleaning, discuss your flossing options with your dentist. He can show you the best way to floss or recommend the right flossing tool to use. Your dentist can walk you through the steps of flossing to help you master it and avoid any discomfort.
Miami-based periodontist Dr. John Paul Gallardo is available to answer any questions you might have about flossing, oral care and oral hygiene at your next appointment. To schedule an appointment, call 305-447-1447 today.