By: Rosie Torres, R.D.H.
It’s October so it must be National Dental Hygiene Month! Did you know that there is a right way and a wrong way to floss? For healthy teeth and gums, it’s what you do with the floss that really matters. Keep this in mind this month and every other month of the year!
Why floss at all?
The American Dental Association recommends flossing daily as part of your regular oral health regimen. It’s the best way to remove excess plaque from places your toothbrush cannot reach, like between the teeth and along the gum line.
Neglecting your oral health can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Almost half of American adults over the age of 30 have some degree of periodontal disease, according to the CDC. This infection damages your gum tissue and, in severe cases, causes tooth and bone loss.
“Try to floss everyday or use a Waterpik.” suggests Elena, one of our Gallery57Dental hygienists. A Waterpik can be especially helpful for getting into hard to reach areas of the mouth and tightly spaced teeth, but isn’t considered a substitute to flossing rather an added weapon in the dental hygiene arsenal.
What’s the most common flossing mistake?
What’s your flossing technique? Chances are you, like most people, pull your floss straight up and down. Unfortunately, this technique results in missing the sides of your teeth and the gumline where sneaky plaque tends to accumulate. Remember, plaque is a sticky bacterial film that is coating the teeth so you need to make contact with the sides of the teeth to remove plaque.
You should guide the floss in a C motion around the sides of your teeth and your gumline making contact with the sides of the teeth.
Read on to learn get more tips about proper flossing technique!
The Right Way
Start with approximately 18” of floss and wind it around your middle fingers. Use your thumb and forefinger to hold about one and a half inches of floss. Gently guide the floss between the contacts and use a gentle C motion, scraping both sides of the teeth.
Repeat with all the teeth, including those in the back of the mouth. Even if you experience some soreness at first, it is important to get built-up bacteria and food particles out from between the teeth.
Some other common flossing mistakes include:
Hitting the gums – Another common flossing error is accidentally snapping the floss across the gum tissue or using heavy pressure while flossing. This can cause the gum tissue to become irritated and lead to bleeding gums, gum recession and even gum disease. So be gentle! Remember, the plaque is coating the tooth so the floss needs to be in contact with the tooth and not the gum!
Neglecting certain spots – Make sure to get the hard-to-reach places. Hygienists often find that patients often neglect the back molars as well as the sides of their teeth. Take your time and be thorough!
Flossing too little or too much – Yes, it is a big deal to skip a few days on a regular basis. Flossing irregularly gives plaque the opportunity to mineralize and create tarter which is hard to remove and has a rough surface that additional plaque can easily attach to. Also, the longer plaque remains undisturbed, the more virulent (disease producing) the plaque becomes.
On the other hand, flossing too often can cause gum irritation. Gum tissue is sensitive, and it can do more harm than good.
Some people floss after every meal to get the gunk out, but just flossing once a day will work wonders for your oral hygiene. With a little practice, you can become a skilled and efficient flosser. Our hygienists are always on hand, happy to provide a refresher course of proper flossing technique!