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Brushing and flossing. Together, they create a powerful, complete dental health and prevention package. Brushing is something most people accept as a necessity and do almost without thought a couple of times a day. Flossing, however, does not share that popularity, and people have all sorts of reasons for not flossing. But just like Santa Claus knows who’s been naughty or nice, dentists can look at our teeth and tell who’s been flossing (the ones with the healthier mouths) and who hasn’t (the ones with more dental problems). 

Dental professionals are eager to tell you why flossing is essential. So, let’s take a closer look at flossing benefits, its purpose, and what options you have! 

Flossing Your Teeth

Brushing your teeth is easy. You take your brush, add toothpaste, and thoroughly brush all the tooth surfaces the brush can reach. The whole thing takes a couple of minutes, and your teeth feel nice and clean. It’s safe to assume that most people brush their teeth every day. 

Flossing, unfortunately, does not have the toothbrush’s public relations success. The American Dental Association says that only 12% of Americans floss every day. Many of the rest have a wide array of excuses: they can’t do it right, their gums bleed if they floss, their teeth are too close together, they can’t reach the back teeth, it takes too long, etc.

Yes, flossing your teeth can be awkward and unpleasant until you learn how to do it right. And yes, it’s possible that your gums may bleed the first few times, but it will stop. And by the way, the fact that they’re bleeding is an indication that you need to floss!  

You can always ask your dental hygienist to teach you the best, most comfortable way to floss. When done right, flossing your teeth won’t hurt nor take a long time. 

Is Flossing Important?

Absolutely! 

The purpose of regular tooth brushing is to remove food debris, plaque, and bacteria from your teeth to prevent decay and gum disease. In addition, tooth brushing cleans the tops and sides of your teeth. But even the best toothbrush on the market cannot reach between your teeth. 

If you only brush, you’re not done.

All those gaps between your teeth are perfect little storage units for food debris, plaque, and bacteria. A vigorous swish of mouthwash may be somewhat helpful, but it will not dislodge everything in there. 

Flossing your teeth will.

You get bits of food stuck between your teeth whenever you eat. It’s unavoidable. Flossing reaches into those little storage units and pulls out the mess before it can cause damage. We cannot overstate how important this is, so let’s look at an example.

You ate some delicious roast chicken. You later brushed your teeth and cleared away the food particles from the top and sides of your teeth. However, if you don’t floss, the bits stuck between your teeth are still there. 

What would happen if you left the chicken out of the refrigerator for a day or two? It would spoil. Well, as your mouth is not refrigerated, those chicken bits left between your teeth will start to rot and accumulate bacteria and plaque. Over time, your teeth and gums will become susceptible to cavities, infections, and disease, even though you brush regularly. 

Flossing your teeth completes the cleaning process.

Flossing Benefits

There is no shortage of ways flossing benefits your mouth and even your overall health. Here are some major benefits

  • Flossing does for the areas between your teeth what a brush does for the tops and sides.
  • Flossing removes food particles and plaque.
  • Flossing reduces your risk of cavities, infection, and gum disease because there will be nothing there to trigger them.
  • Flossing helps prevent bad breath. Imagine what food particles left rotting between your teeth can do to your breath! 

The Mouth-Body Connection

The benefits of flossing your teeth are not limited to your mouth. Gum disease can affect and be affected by several health conditions, such as heart disease. Mouth infections can enter the bloodstream and travel to other body systems. In one recent study, people with severe gum disease were 40% more likely to have a severe health condition. In another study, people who practiced good, consistent oral hygiene experienced significantly less heart disease. Gum disease and several other severe health conditions, such as diabetes and arthritis, are also linked.

Maintaining a healthy mouth with both brushing and flossing contributes to the health of your whole body.

Getting the Flossing Done

Types of Flossing

According to research, prehistoric folks were flossing with horsehair. The practice evolved to silk strands in the early 1800s and nylon in the 1940s. Fortunately for us, there are several ways to clean between the teeth, and none involve horsehair.

These days, the most common option is waxed or unwaxed dental floss thread that is packaged in a continuous spool. There are also

  • pre-threaded flossers;
  • water flossers;
  • powered air flossers;
  • proxy brushes (the ones that look like tiny bottle brushes).

Choose what’s most comfortable for you, or ask your dentist for advice. 

If You Wear Metal Braces

It is even more critical to floss because braces create many more tiny spaces for food debris and bacteria to get trapped in. Your available options include waxed floss, super floss, floss threader, orthodontic flosser, and Waterpik®.

How Often Should You Floss?

The American Dental Association recommends flossing your teeth at least once per day at a time that’s convenient for you, usually when you brush. Some choose morning after waking, while others choose night time before bed. Choose a time when the debris is most likely to have accumulated.

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Brushing alone is incomplete. It misses a significant percentage of the dental surfaces that need to be cleaned—the portions residing between teeth. Flossing your teeth completes the cleaning and prevention process. 

Despite its negative publicity, flossing is a powerful tool for dental and overall health. If flossing has not been a part of your daily routine because it’s uncomfortable or otherwise undesirable for you, ask your dentist or hygienist to show you the correct way to floss. There are several types from which to choose, so you can find a comfortable way to take advantage of the many benefits you will gain by flossing. 

At Loudoun Orthodontics, we strive to ensure you have a beautiful smile for life. Reach out today to book a free, easy consultation at our friendly office in Lansdowne, VA! We also invite you to keep up with our blog to get answers to many of the frequently asked questions about maintaining sparkling oral health!