Your dentist and dental hygienist are likely to ask you the usual question: How often are you flossing? I interviewed several dental professionals (not identified for privacy) and learned that the majority of their patients rarely flossed, and many of their patients seemed guilty about confessing. Why do they keep asking this question and forcing patients to experience a moment of guilt or shame? You already know the answer: Flossing is good for you!
Adopt: Why You Should Floss at Least Once per Day
Flossing is easy, fast, and cheap, and it does affect your health. There have been multiple reports throughout the years that imply that flossing is not beneficial enough for preventing cavities. Even if this turns out to be true, dental health is not just about cavities.
Flossing your teeth can help you reduce bad breath and tooth staining from food and plaque that sits between your teeth and doesn’t come out when you just brush (American Dental Association, n.d.-b). Removing the debris may also reduce gum inflammation. If your gums get bleed when you floss, there’s a chance that they’re already inflamed (American Dental Association, n.d.-a).
Flossing is important to protecting and improving gum health, and that can be good for your whole body. While the connection between flossing and other health problems are unclear, there is an association between flossing and reduced cardiovascular disease (Van Dyke & Starr, 2013). There are multiple theories for this. One theory is that inflammation in the gum area can trigger inflammation in the rest of the body, including the lining of your arteries and veins (endothelium), which is also associated with cardiovascular disease. Thus, if you floss, you may reduce inflammation in your body and reduce health problems triggered by inflammation.
Adapt: No More Excuses, Flossing Every Day Is Easy
The proper way to floss involves sliding the floss up and down both sides of each tooth. The American Dental Association (ADA) has a video on their website to demonstrate the proper way to floss (American Dental Association, n.d.-b). Just be gentle when you floss to avoid causing damage to your gums.
The dental professionals I spoke with stated that it is usually best to floss before brushing, so your toothbrush can sweep the gunk away. If you floss during other times during the day, try to floss after eating.
You can use old-fashioned floss or a variety of new designer floss (some have toothpaste infused in the floss, others expand when used, some look like ribbon or tape). If you dislike wrapping floss around your fingers there are floss holders that will hold the floss, pre-threaded flossers that you can just grab and use while you multitask, and electronic flossers. If you don’t like a piece of string between your teeth, try using flossers that just use water pressure.
You can modify your flossing routine by flossing either in the morning or in the evening or randomly in the middle of the day. If you want to floss 2 times per day, you can do that too. You can have too much of a good thing, though, so don’t floss too frequently to avoid damaging your gums.
Attach: Add Flossing to Your Tooth Brushing Routine
Put your floss right next to your toothbrush. Better yet, put it on top of your toothbrush or lean it against your toothbrush, so you will physically have to pick up the floss to get to your toothbrush. This will serve as a reminder to floss first.
If you use a pre-flossed flosser that only takes one hand to use, you can floss with it while you walk around the house, pick out your clothes for the day, read the news, or lock up your home in the evening.
I know one person who keeps her floss in a decorative basket on the end table in her living room, and she uses it while she watches television.
No matter where or when you floss, attach the habit to a routine you already have, and you won’t need to feel guilt or shame when your dentist asks you about your flossing habits.
Wellness Habits Are the Foundation of a Life of Well-Being
American Dental Association. (n.d.-a). Bleeding of Gums. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/bleeding-gums
American Dental Association. (n.d.-b). Flossing. Retrieved February 6, 2017, from http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/f/flossing
Van Dyke, T. E., & Starr, J. R. (2013). Unraveling the link between periodontitis and cardiovascular disease. Journal of the American Heart Association, 2(6), e000657–e000657. https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.113.000657