We all grew up brushing our teeth. While the advice to brush at least twice per day for two minutes each time may have evolved over the years, and while we may not always follow that advice, at least most Americans brush their teeth on a daily basis. Flossing is another matter.
The first nationally representative analysis published in 2016 found that only 30 percent of the population floss on a daily basis, but some dentists believe that number may actually be as low as 10 percent based on their personal observations.1 Is it because many of us didn’t grow up with flossing and thus aren’t into the flossing habit? Considering that dental floss was first marketed in 1882 by Codman and Shurtleft Company, it wasn’t because dental floss is a new invention.2
The reasons why people don’t floss generally break down to a couple of major reasons.
The first being that flossing, which removes food stuck between your teeth and deposits it on the floss, is messy. That visual evidence of accumulated food particles should tell you something about why flossing is so important. Flossing reaches the one-third of your tooth surfaces that brushing misses.3 That small, waxed piece of nylon gets into the nooks and crannies where food particles build up. When those food particles aren’t removed they create bacteria colonies called plaque which inflame the gums and harden into tartar.
Tarter wears away at gums and bone, eventually causing tooth loss. A primary job of your dental hygienists at your six-month check-up is to scrape away plaque and tarter from your teeth before it becomes a problem. If you’re not receiving regular dental care, floss is one of your best tools to keep plaque and tartar from causing issues. Even if you are receiving regular dental care, flossing on a daily basis helps reduce the chance of gum disease and tooth decay.
Another reason people don’t floss is that flossing is a physically awkward process to accomplish. If that is what is holding you back from flossing, there are a few items that can make flossing easier.
The first is a floss holder, floss stick or floss pick. A dental floss pick is a small plastic tool with a curved end that securely holds a piece of dental floss making it easier for you to reach all your teeth, even your back molars.4 These picks can come with secure grip handles and can be disposable or come with a disposable and refillable head. They even have sizes for children and battery-powered models.
The third reason involves psychology. Simply put, it’s hard to start a new habit. To create a habit according to psychologists who study these things, it is best to have a simple and obvious cue and a clearly defined reward. One psychologist suggested putting a blank Post-it on your bathroom mirror as a cue and using flavored floss as a reward.7 For kids the cue and the reward might be something as simple as putting a sticker on a calendar each time they floss. You can ease into making flossing a habit by setting a goal of flossing every other day at first. Keep in mind that going from no flossing at all to more frequent flossing is an achievement in itself, even if dentists recommend daily flossing.
There is also a right way to floss and dental professionals are more than happy to demonstrate that correct way to floss. Take the time on your next visit to ask for a hand-on demonstration. There are some great www.YouTube.com videos that also show you how to floss correctly.
Basically, you should take 18 to 24 inches of dental floss and wind it around both of your middle fingers, leaving about 1-2 inches of floss in the middle. Hold the floss tight with your thumb and index fingers. Then glide the floss up and down between two teeth, rubbing it against both sides of each tooth. It’s important to get the base of each tooth. To do this, curve the floss at the base of the tooth to form a letter “C” shape. Use a clean section of floss as you move to the next set of teeth.
Flossing for Long Term Dental Benefits
Flossing today can drastically reduce oral health issues tomorrow. As the New Year begins, take action to make flossing a part of your daily routine. Something as simple as buying a multi-pack of floss and making it more available to you in your car, or near your recliner, or near your treadmill can do the trick. As the popular athletic footwear brand proclaims, “Just Do It!”
Healthy teeth and mouth to last a lifetime is our goal at Sedki Dentistry Commerce Twp. If you have questions or concerns about your oral health and proper practices, we are happy to help! Our staff is committed to educating and helping patients have a better understanding of what it takes to achieve optimal dental and maintain it.
As a full-service dental clinic with 20+ years’ experience we offer the latest in modern dentistry, including a comprehensive list of general dentistry, restorative dental treatments and cosmetic dental care services to meet the needs of your entire family. Call today for a Free consultation and get a personalized dental experience!