Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Flossing 101

Although we all know that daily flossing should be part of our regular dental hygiene regime, many of us treat it like an afterthought: “Oh, yeah, it’s been a few days since I’ve flossed, better get after it” or “Now, where did I put that new pack of floss?…oh dear, no time, I’ll find it tomorrow.”

According to the American Dental Association, it is necessary to floss at least once a day to maintain optimal oral health. Flossing simply reaches particles of food that settle between the teeth that can be too difficult to reach with normal brushing. When tiny food particles remain between the teeth and nestle into the gum line, plaque, tartar, cavities, and bad breath are inevitable! Did you know that a toothbrush can only effectively clean about 75% of each tooth’s surface? Without flossing, that’s like not brushing the fractional equivalent of 8 entire teeth! Avoid a dental health disaster by following these guidelines for better flossing:

Tools-Waxed or unwaxed floss, plastic flossers or dental picks-it is just a matter of personal preference. Some tools make flossing easier for those who may have trouble using traditional floss, such as small children and older adults. Using any type of floss is certainly better than not flossing at all. However, waxed floss may have more of an edge, due to some that are coated with essential oils and enzymes. Those extras aid in the removal of plaque and food debris.

Individuals with large spaces between the teeth tend to have great results with what’s known as “super floss”. It is specially made to stretch and expand in larger spaces and contract to fit through smaller spaces. Those with dental work, such as braces, find that floss threaders make the job much easier.

Another important tool for flossing is a timer or even a watch-that’s because failing to set aside a little time each day for flossing is a common problem!

The Right Way to Floss-Rushing this important activity and just zipping the floss though a couple of teeth is pointless. If you are not sure of the technique, consult  your dental hygienist for a demonstration. In the meantime, here are the basics:

  • Use a length of floss that is 18 to 24 inches long
  • Wrap the ends gently around each index finger
  • Using the thumb and index finger on each hand, grasp the floss and guide it between each tooth-if that is uncomfortable or difficult, use your middle finger and thumb instead

The Nitty Gritty-Here are some pointers to make flossing even more effective:

Consider the way your teeth are set into your gums-they are side by side in rows and each tooth has 2 sides that can not be accessed with a toothbrush. That’s why you should floss each side of each tooth!

Move the floss up and down the length of each tooth. When you come to the gum line, curve the floss into a “C” shape to reach around the tooth. Be sure to go just under the gum line.

Either rinse the floss as you go or use a fresh section of floss for each tooth. This will prevent the transfer of bacteria and food particles from going tooth to tooth.

Ok, this may sound strange, but every now and then, try sniffing the floss just after you’ve worked it between a tooth. If you notice an unpleasant odor, take it as a clue that something is amiss. It could be that it’s been a while since you flossed, that you missed something before, or it could be a sign of decay. Either way, floss again, rinse, and brush to see if the matter persists. If it does, see your dentist to find out the cause.

Be aware that some teeth, especially those with crowns may be what are known as “food trappers”. Be especially diligent with those and never skip flossing! A great trick for to help get the job done is to tie a knot in the floss.

If you have not been flossing regularly, do not be alarmed if it is slightly painful or if you see a little blood. However, if this persists for more that a week to 10 days, see your dentist to ensure that there are no issues.

It’s easy to make flossing a part of your routine when there’s easy access to floss. Try keeping spare packs of floss or flossing picks in the shower, the car, your briefcase or purse, and gym bag. That way, there will be no excuses!

Having any pain from your teeth or jaw? There's no need to suffer, come see us so we can work on a solution and an end to that pain. Simply call 919-782-0548 to schedule an appointment.

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