Want to maintain good oral health? Then taking good care of your teeth at home is just as necessary as using the right products and regularly visiting your dental specialist.
Along with brushing your teeth twice a day, you’ve likely been told to floss just as often. But you may wonder: if you’re brushing properly every day, what difference does flossing make?
For starters, dental floss can reach those places around your teeth and under your gums where toothbrush bristles can’t. Even to loosen food particles and bacteria from between your teeth, floss is considered very effective.
But is it necessary? Let’s take a look.
How Often Should You Floss?
Flossing may not seem important, but it’s a crucial part of maintaining good oral hygiene as it helps remove plaque and bacteria from places unreachable by your toothbrush.
Did you know that by not flossing you’re missing out on cleaning 1/3rd of your tooth surface?
Plaque is one of the primary causes of gum disease. If not taken care of in the initial stage of formation (within 24 to 36 hours), it can develop into tartar which is much harder to get rid of. Flossing helps remove this invisible bacterial film from your teeth.
Let’s see what the Ontario Dental Association (ODA) has to say about this.
According to the ODA, flossing is an integral part of maintaining oral health. Dental floss and other interdental devices are considered effective and safe ways to clean hard-to-reach places between teeth.
Your toothbrush can reach approximately 25-50% of your tooth surface.
The Canadian Dental Association (CDA) suggests that flossing once a day is adequate. But that doesn’t mean you need to feel guilty if you forget. Just try to do it at least three to four times a week.
However, it’s been reported that only about 1/3rd of Canadians (37.5%) follow the twice-a-day brushing and once daily flossing advice recommended by the CDA.
Why Do You Need to Floss?
To understand the reason behind flossing, ask yourself: why do you brush in the first place?
The most common answers are to prevent oral disease or to feel better. But your toothbrush can’t reach in between teeth. Your tooth has five surfaces, of which only three can be cleaned through brushing. That leaves two out of five dirty. This is where flossing comes in.
After the recent Associated Press report described flossing as a “weak” and “very unreliable” method of fighting cavities and gum disease, it’s understandable why people are skeptical about it. The in-depth investigation seemingly failed to gather any evidence regarding the effectiveness of flossing. Nonetheless, the CDA and ODA, as well as dentists in both Canada and the U.S, continue to support this daily hygiene routine.
The logic is simple. It helps remove hard-to-reach food particles from between teeth that could potentially cause plaque. If left unattended, these particles can cause gum disease and tooth decay.
- Flossing isn’t just important for the regular healthy person. In some special cases, such as when you’re wearing braces or undergoing cancer therapy, regular flossing can save you from other medical issues. Inflamed gums can be dangerous for cancer patients, as the bleeding associated with it can be difficult to control.
- When you’re wearing braces, food, sugar and liquids tend to get stuck in them. Therefore, brushing and flossing become essential.
Can Flossing Prevent Cavities?
The answer is yes! ODA president Dr. Jack McLister himself has said that in the case of decay confined to the enamel, the tooth doesn’t need to be restored. But flossing can prevent the situation from worsening by progressing through to the dentin.
Is There Any Alternative to Flossing?
You may be surprised to find that dental floss isn’t the only type of interdental cleaner available. Indeed, there are many others, including wooden stimulators and interdental brushes.
According to Dr. Christopher McCulloch, Professor in the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto and director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research:
“It probably doesn’t matter what type of interdental cleaning device is used; instead, there are various types of interdental devices that when used appropriately, oral health is improved.”
Flossing is just one of the many tools you can use to keep your teeth clean. Since proper flossing prevents plaque, which is the primary cause of tooth decay and gum disease, it’s recommended by most dentists. However, it’s best to consult your local dental specialist first regarding your oral hygiene routine to make sure you don’t end up flossing too aggressively.