Why do I need to floss my teeth? Flossing is effective at removing food, bacteria, and plaque between your teeth and along the gum line where the toothbrush cannot reach. While tooth brushing removes bacteria and food debris on the outside surfaces of the teeth, the toothbrush cannot remove plaque and bacteria that is between the teeth.
BENEFITS OF FLOSSING
- Removes bacteria between the teeth
- Removes food and plaque that can be stuck and caught between your teeth and along the gum line
- Can help improve your breath and decrease likelihood of halitosis, bad breath. Food and bacteria between the teeth can cause halitosis.
- Helps prevent cavities between your teeth.
- Helps prevent gingivitis (bleeding gums) and periodontitis and the possible need for deep cleaning
- Can help your teeth remain whiter by removing foods that can cause extrinsic stains
- If someone is currently undergoing orthodontics (braces), brackets and bands can act as an annoying food trap. Flossing will help remove such food and bacteria stuck between the teeth.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON'T FLOSS
- Increased risk of tooth decay
- Increased risk of gingivitis, gum bleeding, and bone disease
- Increased risk of halitosis (bad breath)
- If someone is currently undergoing orthodontics (braces), if one does not floss, this exponentially increases one's risk of gingivitis and tooth decay.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I FLOSS?Studies have shown that daily flossing is efficient at removing bacteria, food, and plaque between the teeth. Along with twice a day brushing, daily flossing is an effective method at keeping your teeth and gums healthy and vibrant.
It's debatable whether one should floss before or after tooth brushing, but as long as the flossing is done daily, that's the important thing!
HOW SHOULD I FLOSS?
- Start with approximately 18-20 inches of fresh new floss each time. Waxed floss is a good choice as the wax may flossing easier go between the teeth.
- Wind most of the floss around each of your middle fingers, leaving about an inch of floss in between the middle fingers
- Hold the floss tightly between the thumb and index finger, and slide it up and down between the teeth gently
- Very gently curve the floss at the end base of the tooth. Make sure the floss gets underneath the gums. Try not to force the floss down as this may injure or bruise the gums.
- Use clean sections of the floss as you move tooth to tooth.
- When done flossing, dispose of the floss and wash your hands with water and soap.
- Repeat steps 1-6 daily.
Peter Chien, DMD, MPH