A Guide to Flossing Your Teeth

Oral Care

Not everyone flosses their teeth regularly, but they should. Flossing is an essential part of keeping your teeth and gums healthy. It should be performed daily in conjunction with regular brushing at least twice per day in order to keep plaque from forming in the areas between teeth.

Whenever you consume food or drinks, a very small amount of these substances can get caught in the tight spaces between your teeth. If these materials are not removed regularly, they can begin to decompose inside your mouth, resulting in unpleasant breath odors and setting the stage for bacterial growth.

When bacteria have a food source – such as the food particles left between your teeth when you don’t regularly floss – they can reproduce very rapidly. These bacteria can then promote tooth decay and gum disease at a rate that is faster than if you were to remove these substances on a daily basis.

The Problem with Plaque

Another thing that can happen is that a filmy substance known as plaque can build up on the surfaces of your teeth – including the plates of tooth enamel that lie between your teeth. If not removed, plaque can harden and form in to calculus or tartar. These also accelerate tooth decay and gum disease, not to mention giving your teeth an unpleasant yellow, brown or even black coloration.

Brushing regularly can remove plaque from the front and back surfaces of your teeth. But only regular flossing will eradicate plaque from between your teeth.

Why People Don’t Floss Regularly

If you don’t floss your teeth daily – or at least a few times per week – you are not alone. Most people don’t floss regularly. The reasons why vary.

Some people find it inconvenient to floss their teeth before or after brushing them in the morning or evening. Flossing your teeth properly can take several minutes. And when you are in a hurry during your morning routine – because you have to catch a train or bus or get your kids to school on time – every minute counts.

Another reason people don’t brush is that it can be painful and even bloody, especially if you don’t floss regularly. Gums can become weakened and diseased if food particles are allowed to decompose without being removed on a regular basis. So when people who don’t floss regularly finally get a flossing treatment – usually during their annual dental checkup or bi-annual teeth cleaning with a dental hygienist – the results can often be painful and the gums can bleed.

But don’t worry. The pain and bleeding will eventually go away once you start to floss your teeth on a regular basis. If they don’t, consult your dentist.

When Should You Floss?

Whether you floss in the morning or in the evening – or some other time, for that matter – is less important than that you make flossing a regular part of your daily routine. Choose a time of day that allows you to devote enough time to thoroughly flossing and cleaning your teeth – it generally takes about four to six minutes to do a proper job – then build that into your morning routine or pre-bedtime ritual.

After you are finished flossing, rinse your mouth out with mouthwash to remove any excess food particles or other debris that have been loosened by your flossing. This will also kill any bacteria residing on the surface or between your teeth. Gargle for a few minutes to get the bacteria in your throat as well and to improve your breath.

Children and Flossing

Most parents will argue that it is hard enough to get their children to brush their teeth, let alone floss regularly. But regular flossing is just as important to children as it is to adults – perhaps even more important.

Unfortunately, most kids don’t possess the tactile skills to floss their teeth until they reach the age of about 10 or 11 years old. Prior to then, the flossing ritual will have to be up to you.  While this may be inconvenient, it’s definitely necessary to help your children have healthy teeth as they mature into adulthood. Plus, it will save you the expense and frustration of having to get your children’s teeth repaired and improved later.

Types of Floss to Use

There are a few different types of dental floss you can use to clean the areas between your teeth. These include waxed and un-waxed versions, as well as thick floss or “comfort” – or thinner – floss. Another option is a pre-threaded flosser. These disposable plastic picks have a point end on one side and a short span of floss secured on the other.

All of these are good options. Find the one that works best for you then stick with it. Just make sure you choose flossing products that carry the seal of approval from the American Dental Association.

Author Bio – This article is written by Paul Smith on behalf of Thantakit International Dental Center, a sough after clinic for dental treatment in Bangkok, Thailand.