After eating an orange or a stringy piece of meat, the first thing you may think is, “I need to floss!” But while it’s certainly a great way to remove food between your teeth, flossing is incredibly important for many other reasons. In fact, even people who do a great job brushing their teeth can still run into problems if they don’t floss consistently. Read on to learn more about flossing and why it’s so necessary for your oral health!
Why Brushing Your Teeth Isn’t Enough
Plaque and tartar are largely made of bacteria that account for many dental problems. Plaque is a soft, sticky consistency, so it can be removed with your toothbrush and floss. But if it’s not removed early enough, it hardens into cement-like deposits of tartar that can only be removed by a professional.
Brushing your teeth, even if you’re very thorough, only removes about 2/3 of plaque because the bristles simply can’t reach the surface area between your teeth and under your gumline. But floss can reach these areas, which is why it’s necessary to remove the other 1/3 of the plaque in your mouth before it causes problems.
The Importance of Flossing For a Healthy Smile
Here are the benefits you can expect from regular flossing:
- Fewer Cavities – Floss is the only thing that can fit between the contact point (the spot where your teeth touch together) and remove the plaque that causes cavities.
- Healthier Gums – Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss. Each tooth is surrounded by a “pocket” of gum tissue where plaque and bacteria can hide (healthy pockets are between 1-3mm). Flossing is the best way to remove the plaque from your pockets and maintain your gum health. For patients who have gum disease, good oral hygiene habits along with periodontal therapy is the best defense.
- Lower chance of serious health conditions – Preventing or managing gum disease with good brushing and flossing does more than reduce your risk of tooth loss. Researchers have found it also lowers your chances of developing heart disease, Alzheimer’s, pregnancy complications, stroke, diabetes and even some cancers.
- Fresher Breath – In addition to causing cavities and gum problems, plaque, tartar and bacteria also contribute to bad breath. Regular flossing removes the cause of this odor at the source.
If you struggle with flossing, don’t hesitate to ask your dentist or hygienist for help at your next checkup. They can demonstrate the best technique and recommend specific types of floss or floss aids that can help.
Also, keep in mind that it’s helpful to start with small, achievable goals. If you don’t floss at all, start with just a few days a week. Once that habit is established, you’ll find it easier to floss every day!
About the Author
Dr. Robert Long is a second-generation dentist and a native of the Cleburne area. With a focus on prevention, he and his staff explain the “how and why” of flossing to their patients to help them minimize dental problems as much as possible. If you’d like more information about flossing or have any questions, he can be reached via his website.