man flossing teeth

When considering what constitutes good oral hygiene practices, most people would put brushing and flossing at the top of their lists. After all, dentists have stressed the importance of both practices for years. Recently, however, the importance of flossing was called into question by the Associated Press. The AP claimed that, despite recommendations to floss by dentists everywhere and even the American Dental Association, there’s no concrete proof that flossing is effective. So, what does this mean for the average person? Should you stop buying floss and assume that the only weapon you need against tooth decay and gum disease is your toothbrush? Let’s examine the facts below.

Benefits of flossing

Your oral health and your body’s overall health are closely related. Yes, that’s right: how you take care of your teeth– or neglect to take care of them– can have a profound impact on your physical health. After all, poor oral health has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. A major part of caring for your oral health is practicing good oral hygiene at home.

Throughout each day, a sticky film known as plaque is constantly forming on the teeth. If left untouched, the bacteria in plaque feeds on the sugars you eat, creating a harmful acid. It’s this acid that attacks the teeth and creates decay. But your teeth aren’t the only part of the mouth affected by the bacteria in plaque. Periodontal disease– more commonly known as gum disease– is also caused by the bacteria in dental plaque.

This is where brushing and flossing come in. When you brush your teeth, you’re removing plaque before it has a chance to build up and lead to tooth decay and other oral health problems. Brushing can only do so much, however. Even the most diligent brushers can’t reach every area in their mouths. Thus, those hard-to-reach areas are a prime location for plaque to build up and oral health problems to develop. That’s why flossing is an essential– not optional– part of effective oral health care. When asked for his opinion about whether or not flossing is necessary, Wayne Aldredge, president of the periodontists’ group, had this to say about the implications of neglecting to floss:

“It’s like building a house and not painting two sides of it. Ultimately those two sides are going to rot away quicker.”

Is there a proper way to floss?

Now that you know why flossing is important, let’s consider how you should be flossing. For starters, you should floss at least once a day. Whether you floss before or after brushing is entirely up to you; as long as you get the job done, when you do it is a personal preference. For best results, use a piece of floss that’s about 18 inches long. Slide it gently between your teeth and wrap it around each tooth in the shape of a “C”. Then simply move the floss up and down. Keep in mind that, while flossing can initially be slightly uncomfortable, it shouldn’t be painful. If you’re in pain while flossing, you’re either flossing too aggressively or there’s an underlying oral health condition that needs to be addressed.

What type of floss should I use?

If you browse your local drug store, you’re likely to find several dental floss options. The vast majority of flosses are made from nylon or Teflon and they’re equally effective when used properly. Thus, you should choose the floss you feel most comfortable with so that you’re more likely to use it daily. One factor you might take into consideration, however, is the spacing of your teeth. If your teeth are close together, a thin dental floss will likely work best. On the other hand, if you have large spaces between your teeth, a wide, flat dental tape is a good option.

To learn more about the importance of flossing, contact our dental office in Skokie, IL today.