Do I Really Need to Floss Every Day?
Do you get nervous about that inevitable question from your dentist? “Have you been flossing?” Do you have a hesitated response at the ready? “Sometimes.” “Occasionally.” “When I remember.” Flossing isn’t usually something we rush home to do and it can easily fall off our list of daily habits, with busy schedules and a lack of interest in such a tedious chore. So the question is do you really need to floss every day?
What Flossing Does
Flossing is a type of interdental cleaning that removes food particles from between teeth and along the gum line. Particles left between the teeth and gums can become a breeding ground for bacteria and plaque to develop. Over time, this can lead to gum decay, cavities, bad breath and other dental concerns. Brushing, while an important step, can only remove bacteria, food, sugars and more from the surface of the teeth. To get between teeth, where these things like to hide, you need an interdental cleaner, such as floss.
The Best Way to Floss
Many find flossing an uncomfortable or frustrating task. Reluctance to flossing can lead to bad flossing habits, mitigating the benefits of flossing in the first place. By flossing well, you can maximize the benefits and ensure the time you floss is well spent. The American Dental Association website has a comprehensive article, with pictures, laying out each step in detail. To summarize, you want to be sure that you are moving the floss between each set of teeth and into the gums, along the side of the teeth. Rub along each tooth away from the gum line, to remove debris. Use a fresh portion of floss as you go and remember to be gentle.
What Happens if You Don’t
Flossing, like any interdental cleaning, takes time. If you quickly brush your teeth, and skip this important step, you are likely leaving sugars, bacteria and food particles between your teeth. Over time, plaque will begin to build up in these hard to reach areas. If you visit your dentist regularly, he or she will need to scrape off that plaque, which can sometimes feel unpleasant. Removing debris before plaque has a chance to build is preferable.
So Really, How Often?
Okay, let’s get down the real question. Do you really need to floss every day? Your dentist will have the best answer for that, after she conducts a full examination of your oral health. She can explain how and why you should be flossing, as well as how often. But before you can make your appointment and have that conversation, you should know that the American Dental Association recommends cleaning between your teeth once a day.
For most, flossing is the most common way of cleaning between your teeth and preventing gum disease, cavities and more. However, if you have specific objections to the discomfort of flossing, you can talk to your dentist about other interdental cleaning options. He or she may be able to point you to other effective methods.