We know we’re supposed to do it every day. We also know we should be eating fresh, organic vegetables and exercising daily. We’re human, and like all humans, we’re not always consistent or perfect. But, we can create new, positive habits by setting ourselves up for success. Flossing only takes a few minutes each day (way less time than steaming vegetables or going to the gym) and can literally save your teeth.
Back to Basics
Do you remember the moment you were taught how to floss? If you don’t, you’re not alone. Most adults don’t remember being shown, and some never learned the right way at all. It’s never too late to learn or refresh your technique. Here’s a quick tutorial:
You may not hold or wrap the floss around your fingers as shown above, and that’s o.k. The important part about flossing is getting down, around the gums & sides of each tooth, to properly remove plaque and food debris. You want to be gentle (snapping the floss down hard can cause gum irritation), but thorough. Take the time, every day, for flossing. If you’re too rushed in the morning, take a couple of extra minutes for yourself right before bed.
Dental Tip: If you have a hard time wrapping floss around your fingers, or if you suffer from arthritis, try using a floss holder with a larger handle.
What is the best floss to use?
Simply, the one you prefer to use. Dentists and dental hygienists may have their favorites, but everyone should use what they like. Glide Pro-Health is a top seller because it’s truly easy to use and glides 50% easier between teeth than waxed types. While many dental hygienists love the woven texture of Listerine Gentle Gum Care, Reach’s Mint Waxed is a budget-friendly, good option as well. Luckily, floss isn’t too expensive, so try different types and brands to find the right one for you. This may take a little trial and error, but any floss is better than no floss!
My teeth are too tight & floss always gets stuck.
If you’ve ever been aggravated by floss getting stuck, or shredding, try using Glide Pro-Health. It’s a great choice if you have very tight contacts. Glide may cost a little more than others, but it really does glide between the teeth, making it easy to use. Having tight contacts is great for preventing larger pieces of food getting caught, but harmful bacteria can still sit between tight teeth.
Dental Tip: Let your dentist know if you have any areas that catch or break the floss. Sometimes old fillings can fracture or become loose and need to be replaced.
I have crowns. I’m afraid they’ll come out if I floss.
Treat your crowns like natural teeth. Flossing is especially important around crown margins, as the edges can be notorious plaque catchers. You can develop cavities around crowns, so it’s important to floss around them daily. If a crown comes loose or falls out when flossing, keep it in a sealed container or Ziploc baggie (if you push it back on your tooth, be careful not to accidentally swallow it!) and make a dental appointment. Your dentist can determine why it became loose in the first place, and secure it properly. Flossing won’t loosen your crowns, but bacteria left around the edges can cause inflammation. This leads to puffy, irritated gums which pull away from the crown. If left untreated, cavities can form at the edges, compromising the bond—which can loosen crowns over time.
Dental Tip: Make sure to floss around dental implants and under bridges daily as well! If you’re not sure how to properly floss around dental work, ask your hygienist!
Flossing makes my gums bleed.
Quite the opposite! When we neglect our gums, they become red and inflamed. This is the first sign of gingivitis. Left untreated, it can turn into full blown periodontal disease. In advanced stages, teeth become loose, painful, and are ultimately lost due to bone loss. When we don’t floss, we’re allowing bacteria to become too comfortable. Studies have shown oral plaque can reproduce every 5 hours! The worst thing to do is ignore symptoms in your mouth. This goes for a little bleeding here and there, to unusual lumps and patchy colored areas. Keep flossing and gently brushing around the gums, even if they do bleed. Rinse out, and keep on flossing.
Healthy gums don’t bleed.
Consistency is the key for healthy gums. If you miss a day or two, don’t be too hard on yourself, just pick it back up as soon as you remember. For optimal home care, rinse with Listerine after flossing. It’s clinically proven to reduce harmful bacteria, and has the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
Tip: Make sure the floss goes all the way down around the gums. It may look a little scary, as if the floss is going down too low. This is ok! You’ll want to go up and down, gently, around the sides of each tooth. You may experience some bleeding if you’re not a regular flosser, so just rinse and keep at it!
See your dental hygienist at least 2x per year for a cleaning. Hardened build-up (calculus/tartar) can sit at or below the gums, irritating the tissues and causing pockets. This isn’t something a regular toothbrush can remove and needs to be professionally cleaned to keep the gums and teeth healthy.
We all want to keep our teeth—without having bleeding or pain—our entire adult lives. So, it’s important to have routine check-ups with your dentist (and floss daily!).
Hillsdale Dental Care has been providing service for the West San Jose, Cambrian and Willow Glen neighborhoods for more than 30 years. Doctors Stanley, Azzarelli, and Jacobs priority is to deliver state-of-the-art, top-quality care to informed patients in a comfortable, affordable, and convenient environment.