Of all the things we could be doing to improve our oral health, the easiest thing to do is the one we neglect the most: flossing.
While we should floss on a daily basis, it’s easy to overlook and put off. People are busy, rushing out the door in the morning and not returning home until late at night. With this being the case, when is the right time to floss your teeth?
When patients misunderstand the importance of flossing, that’s just one more barrier we have to overcome to help people improve their overall oral health.
If you are confused about what your flossing regime should look like, you are not alone. To help you understand why we floss and when to floss, we’ve put together this short flossing guide.
Why Is It Important to Floss?
Let’s start with the importance of flossing. It’s not something to overlook. Flossing is a critical part of your oral health care routine because it helps remove food and germs that can lead to the development of plaque. Not only is plaque unsightly on your teeth if left untreated, but it can lead to the direct development of decay: cavities.
Flossing on a regular basis (at least once a day) can help prevent plaque from building up between your teeth; it also helps keep your gums healthy. If your gums bleed or are red and swollen, you may have early signs of gingivitis, which is an inflammatory condition that is easily prevented and treated by flossing. If you are new to flossing, your gums may bleed at first, but this will shortly subside.
How Do Cavities Form?
Shortly after food and bacteria become lodged between teeth, they start to form plaque. Plaque breaks down the enamel on the tooth and allows bacteria to enter the tooth. If left untreated, cavities can form, which can lead to a range of problems, including root canals. In extreme cases, a lack of oral hygiene can lead to the loss of one or more teeth.
Cavities are highly preventable. And while they are treatable at the dental office, the best way to maintain good oral health is to prevent them from developing in the first place.
Ensuring your oral health is in tip-top shape is not just about having a beautiful smile. Dental professionals know that poor oral health can also lead to a decline in your generalized health. Flossing is a very easy way to reduce the risk of other conditions or issues developing down the road.
How Should I Floss?
Not only is it important to floss on a regular basis, but it’s important to use the proper procedure.
- Start with a piece of floss that is at least as long as your arm.
- Wrap the two ends of the floss around your index and middle fingers, leaving a few inches in between your hands to floss.
- Starting at the back of your mouth, floss between every tooth, getting down into the gums two to three times for each tooth. Be sure to also floss at the back of your last molars because it’s an easy spot to forget.
- If your floss pulls food or other particles from your teeth, move down the string of floss until you are finished so that you have a new piece of floss for every tooth or every couple of teeth.
When Should I Floss?
Now that you know why it’s important to floss and you know how to floss, let’s talk about the right time to floss. The best time to floss is before you brush your teeth.
Flossing helps you loosen the debris, food and other particles between your teeth. After you floss, the toothbrush will help brush away the loosened particles and food that were left behind from the string of floss.
However, if you ask a dental professional, they will say that as long as you are doing it on a regular basis, when it happens is not as important as the fact that it happens.
Consistency is key when it comes to your oral health routine. The more consistent you can be, the better the results will be. If you forget to floss or put it off from time to time, you’ll experience discomfort, red or swollen gums and occasional bleeding. Those symptoms subside with consistency.
Dr. Grady L. Lembke has been a dentist for over 20 years at his practice in Edmond, Oklahoma. He is a big proponent of the latest dental technology and has served on the board of directors of numerous dental associations.