Flossing your teeth is more important to your well-being than even brushing. So why do so many of us find reasons not to do it?
Sure you have excuses, but we have simple answers for them all.
The main purpose of flossing isn’t to remove food from the teeth. It’s to get rid of plaque. Busting out the floss every day prevents gum disease and tooth loss.
It’s “the most difficult personal grooming activity there is,” says Samuel B. Low, DDS, past president of the American Association of Periodontology. But it’s one of the most important to learn.
Use these tips to floss correctly:
Don’t forget the back of your last molars. “By far, most gum disease and most decay occurs in the back teeth,” Low says.
If you have trouble reaching the back of your mouth, ask your dentist about:
A child will need your help to floss until he’s about 11 years old. Kids should start to floss as soon as they have two teeth that touch.
Find a time of day that works for you. You should floss at least once a day. Two times is best.
Make it a part of your routine, morning and night. If you find you forget, store your floss with your toothbrush and toothpaste to remind yourself.
You don’t have to do it in front of your bathroom mirror. Keep some floss in your car to use while you’re in traffic. Stash some in your desk and use it after lunch. The key is to fit in flossing when it works for you.
If your gums bleed or hurt, you may have gingivitis or gum disease. That’s an even bigger reason to floss.
“Flossing should not be a painful experience, but stopping flossing because of bleeding [or pain] is just the opposite of what you should be doing,” says Mark S. Wolff, DDS, PhD, of the New York University College of Dentistry.
If you brush and floss daily, the bleeding and pain should stop in less than 2 weeks. If it doesn’t, see your dentist.
It may be hard to floss if you’re tired or nauseated. But it’s important to keep up with your brushing and flossing routine. Pregnancy can cause a wide range of dental issues, from gum disease to enamel wear.
Try waxed or glide floss for an easier fit. If you have recessed gums, varied gaps between teeth, or braces, you can also try a threader or loop to find an easier entry point. If your floss shreds, you may have a cavity or a problem with dental work, like a broken crown or loose filling. Ask your dentist to take a look.