Flossing is a common practice for dental care all around the world, so it is important to understand the potential benefits and the proper method to use.
What is Flossing?
Flossing is the act of cleaning the space between your teeth with dental floss, a soft thread made of floss silk, in order to protect against food buildup and other dental problems. There is some debate about the efficacy and purpose of flossing, as opposed to normal brushing and mouthwash. On one side are the dentists, who strongly advocate for daily flossing, while other scientists have questioned its actual effect.
Generally speaking, flossing is considered a wise practice, and necessary for protection against the collection of plaque on your teeth, which can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. Excess food in your teeth can also add to yellowing of the teeth and bad breath because as that food remains in your mouth, it begins to break down and provides an ideal home for bacteria. For that reason, experts generally recommend flossing 1-2 times per day, or even more often, such as after every meal. That being said, this practice can be damaging to the teeth, gums, and overall oral health if done incorrectly or too often.
If this is a new concept to you, it is important to understand the basics of how to floss. It should all start with your dental floss, which can be acquired from dentists or from any store that sells toiletries.
- Step 1: Unwind about 18 inches of floss from the small container.
- Step 2: Wrap the ends around your middle or pointer fingers, leaving about 2-3 inches of floss exposed.
- Step 3: Slide the floss gently up and down on either side of your teeth,
- Step 4: Form a “C” shape around the base of each tooth, but be careful not to cut or pull too deep into your gums.
- Step 5: As sections of the floss become dirty or used, unwind your fingers to reveal a clean section.
- Step 6: Never tug or snap the floss, to prevent cutting the gums.
Benefits of Flossing
The many benefits of flossing your teeth include the following:
- Whitening your teeth
- Fighting bad breath
- Improving gum health
- Reducing risk of gingivitis
- Preventing cavities
Let us discuss them in detail below.
When you floss your teeth, you are able to clean out the extra plaque in between the teeth, exposing more of the enamel to the fluoride of your toothpaste, helping to improve the color of your teeth.
As mentioned, when food becomes trapped between your teeth for hours or even days, it can start to affect your breath. That food is effectively rotting in your mouth, and people will be able to notice!
When small food particles get caught beneath the gums, it can cause tartar to form – a hardened form of plaque that is difficult to remove without a dental scraper. This can also cause your gums to recede, opening yourself to more infections. Flossing can prevent this deposition of food at the gum line.
Periodontal disease can come in many forms, and gingivitis is an inflammatory infection that attacks the mouth and gums. Research has found that the regular use of floss can greatly lower your risk for this condition.
Cavities form when we eat sugary products and allow those compounds to ferment on the teeth, resulting in plaque. We can remove this plaque with flossing, which can prevent the breakdown of our enamel, lowering overall cavity risk.
Flossing Side Effects
Although there is a debate about how effective this practice truly is, there are a limited number of actual negative side effects. The main side effect of flossing include the following:
- Sore gums: This is typically only experienced if you are doing this process too often, which can inflame the gums.
- Bleeding gums: If you are using floss for the first time in weeks or months, bleeding of the gums is possible, but this shouldn’t happen regularly.