Raise your hand if you have been to the dentist and lied when he or she asked – “Have you been flossing regularly?” Even though we feel the need to say ‘Yes,’ that still doesn’t give us the kick we need to go home and floss everyday as the American Dental Association recommends. [source: ADA]. While brushing your teeth twice a day will go a long way toward maintaining oral health, you’re not getting the optimal cleaning if you leave the floss unused in the back of your medicine cabinet.
While the toothbrush works by physically removing plaque with its bristles and the toothpaste enhances the effect of the toothbrush by reducing the amount of bacteria in your mouth – there is a big drawback: A toothbrush’s bristles can’t adequately clean between the teeth or under the gums [source: ADA].
What does flossing do?
Flossing helps remove debris between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it has a chance to harden into plaque. Plaque that is not removed can harden into tartar and can only be removed through a professional cleaning by a dental professional. When this happens, brushing and cleaning between teeth become more difficult, and gum tissue can become swollen or may bleed. This condition is called gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease, and if left unchecked, the bacteria-laden tartar and plaque can spread even deeper below the gum line, causing periodontitis.
This expensive snowball effect can be avoided by flossing.
When is the best time to floss?
According to the American Dental Association, you can floss either before or after brushing. However, if you use dental floss before you brush, the fluoride from the toothpaste has a better chance of reaching between teeth. Unlike brushing, you only need to floss once a day. Although you may choose to do it in the morning or afternoon, many prefer to floss at night to prevent food and debris from remaining in the crevices of the teeth overnight. This could prevent the build-up of plaque too.
How to choose the right floss
When picking a floss it’s easy to get overwhelmed with how many varieties there are. All floss types work well when used daily but it is important to know the differences in teeth and what works best for your type. There is waxed, unwaxed, tape, ultra floss and flossing picks – just to name a few.
A few helpful tips when choosing:
- Large gaps? Try dental tape
- Not much space between your teeth? Try waxed floss to slide into those tight spaces.
- Want less mess? Look for disposable flossers
- Braces or bridges? A spongy floss is a good option