November 26, 2012

Do I Really Have To Floss?

Of course not.

You don't have to do anything you don't want to do.

I'm a dental hygienist and even I hate flossing. That's actually one of the first things I tell my patients (Hey, I'm human too!). Flossing isn't enjoyable. It's not something I want to do each day. In fact, growing up in a culture where dental professionals are always passive-aggressively yelling at us for not flossing makes me want to stay far away from it!

America is flossed out.

But if you DO floss, you will save money, save time, have less pain, be less stressed, be healthier, and save your teeth. It takes 60 seconds, people, 60 seconds.

Without getting into the technical and scientific side of things, here are 5 points that give you the gist from a dental hygienist's perpective.

  • Flossing works in 2 ways: It prevents cavities. It prevents gum disease.
  • Preventing cavities: Current research shows that if you floss properly once every 24 hours, it will significantly reduce your chances of getting cavities between your teeth.
  • Preventing gum disease: Current research shows that if you floss properly once every 24 hours, it will significantly reduce gum disease. Gum disease can effect the rest of your body (more on that in a later blog). You can heal from some types of mild gum disease. But once you have advanced gum disease, you will never get rid of it-- and it advances rapidly. You will have to deal with the for the rest of your life. Believe me, its not pretty (refer to photo below).
  • The average life of dental work (fillings, crowns, etc) is 7 years. Just like everything else in life, this filling will eventually get old and will need replaced. So not only will you have to take off work and find the time and money to get the cavity filled today, but in 7 years (or less, or more) you will have to do it all over again. And then 7 years after that. And then 7 years after that...
  • Flossing every day will definitely give you better breath and whiter teeth.
When many people floss, they mistakenly quickly snap the floss in and out. Slow down, folks.

Many people also think that if they see blood, then they are flossing wrong. I'm here to tell you that if you see blood, you are probably doing something right.

 MOST people have some form of gum disease and bleeding... even if its just around one tooth.

If you aren't flossing properly, you may as well not be flossing at all. Flossing IS simple... as long as you follow three key points:

    1. When you floss, hug the tooth as much as possible with the string... in a 'C' shape.

    2. While keeping the floss tight to the tooth, scrape the tooth surface up and down a few times... going as far deep into the gums as possible... until it is squeaky clean. Each tooth has a small gum pocket around it. This pocket is what you are cleaning out. Do this on EVERY TOOTH (not just the front teeth, people). And do it even on the back side of the back tooth-- there is a gum pocket there too! On the picture, notice how far the floss is under the gum...
    3. Do this once (or more) ever 24 hours. Research isn't conclusive (yet) on whether you must floss at the same time you brush. So, I always tell my patients my secret-- I keep my floss stuffed in the couch. When I watch TV, which is usually nightly, I floss. Keep it in your car. Or your desk at work. Just some place where you know you will have idle hands.
If it bleeds when you floss, then you have gum disease.
The more you floss, the less it will bleed, the less it will hurt.
A completely healthy mouth will not bleed upon flossing. That is your goal.
That's all I'll say on the topic for now, though there is so much more I could explain on how and why these things happen. If you have questions, feel free to comment. Dentistry is confusing, I know.
I will leave you with a picture of what you will eventually look like if you don't floss. I apologize for any gross-ness present. The picture is large to enhance the effect. Flossing daily and brushing properly would have prevented most of this.

I literally see this every day. And you wonder why people need cleanings? Well...
Floss on, folks!
You can do it!
Your friendly dental hygienist, (m)
*As always, I try to present the most current, valid, un-biased facts on dentistry. I promise I will clearly note when I am giving my opinion, and not facts. The medical field is always changing, so when new research comes out, I will do my best to update you. If you are curious to know where I get my facts, please go here and here or feel free to contact me.*

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