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Richard L. Rausch, DDS
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Why Flossing Is a Must, Not a Maybe

What Are the Benefits of Flossing?

You probably already know that you should brush your teeth at least twice a day, but how often do you floss? Flossing is an important component of your oral health routine, but it’s often overlooked. Our dentists recommend incorporating flossing as part of your daily routine, either in the morning or at night before you go to sleep. Here are four reasons why you should make flossing part of your oral care routine.

Prevent Gum Disease

Plaque is a sticky, colorless film that forms on your teeth and along your gum line each day. It develops when the bacteria in your mouth mixes with the starches and sugars found in many foods and drinks. The bacteria in plaque release acids that can damage your gums.

If plaque isn’t removed daily, it hardens into a substance called tartar, also known as dental calculus. Tartar collects along the gum line and is yellow or brown in color. The accumulation of plaque and tartar can cause your gums to become sensitive, inflamed, and red, resulting in gums that bleed while you’re brushing or flossing. These are warning signs of gingivitis, the earliest form of gum disease. Flossing every day removes plaque before it can harden into tartar and can prevent you from developing gum disease.

Prevent Tooth Decay

Just as plaque can raise your risk of gum disease, it can also make you more susceptible to tooth decay. The bacteria found in plaque release acids that can destroy delicate tooth enamel. When not removed daily, plaque can create tiny holes in your tooth enamel, creating a cavity. By flossing your teeth at least once a day, you can remove plaque before it has a chance to attack your tooth enamel, reducing your risk of tooth decay.

Prevent Bad Breath

Many people experience bad breath, which is also called halitosis. Flossing every day is one of the easiest things you can do to prevent bad breath. When food particles get stuck between your teeth, they start to decay over time. If not removed by flossing between your teeth, these food particles can cause you to have unpleasant breath. Having cavities or gum disease can also contribute to bad breath. And, as we know from above, flossing can help to prevent both of those conditions.

Improve Overall Health

There’s an increasing amount of evidence supporting the link between chronic oral health problems like gum disease and other systemic health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory diseases. Researchers believe that the inflammation and bacteria caused by gum disease play a role in the development of systemic disease. By simply flossing each day, you can remove the food particles and plaque that contribute to bacterial build-up in your mouth.

Flossing also plays an important role in your everyday routine if you take prescription medications that cause dry mouth. Saliva washes away bacteria, and if your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva or you’re taking medications that cause dry mouth, you’re at an increased risk of infection due to the presence of bacteria. For this reason (and all the others listed previously), flossing is especially important. Talk to your dentist about how you can best care for your teeth and gums if you have dry mouth or reduced saliva production.

Do Children Need to Floss?

Although flossing can be challenging for children, it’s an important component of their oral health. Just like adults, children can also benefit from the many advantages of daily flossing, including reducing plaque, improving breath freshness, and preventing many oral health problems, such as cavities. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that parents start flossing their children’s teeth as soon as they have teeth that touch side by side.

Ways to Make Flossing Fun for Kids

Use these tips and tricks to make flossing a fun activity that your child looks forward to each day:

  1. Use positive reinforcement: It takes time to develop healthy habits, so it’s important to use positive reinforcement to encourage your kids to floss daily. Be sure to offer praise when your children floss their teeth to help provide the motivation needed to prioritize flossing.
  2. Make flossing a family activity: Make brushing and flossing at the same time a family event that everyone performs together. In addition to setting a good example, you can also help your children learn the correct technique for flossing.
  3. Develop a reward system: Providing small, frequent rewards is a great way to encourage daily flossing. For example, going to the movies, staying up past bedtime, or extra TV time are incentives you can offer when your children floss for a certain number of days in a row.
  4. Start with flossing sticks: When your child is learning to floss, it can be helpful to start off with floss sticks. These tools are small and easy for children to hold, and many come in bright colors or feature familiar characters to help make flossing a fun activity. Once your children have adjusted to flossing, then you can teach them how to floss their teeth using regular dental floss.

What Is the Right Way to Floss?

Now that you know more about why flossing every day is crucial for your oral health, you’re probably wondering how to floss. Follow these steps when flossing your teeth so you can receive all the benefits flossing provides:

  1. Take about 18 inches of floss and wind most of it between the middle finger on each hand.
  2. Hold the floss tautly between your thumbs and index fingers.
    Using a gentle rubbing motion, slide the floss between your teeth in an up-and-down motion.
  3. To ensure that you’re reaching beneath the gum line, gently curve the floss into a C-shape against each tooth.
  4. Repeat this method on all your teeth, moving to a clean section of floss for each tooth.
  5. Be sure to use a gentle motion while flossing and avoid snapping or forcing the floss between your teeth.

By following these simple steps flossing each day, flossing will soon become a healthy habit that will greatly benefit your oral health. If you have any questions, your dentist or dental hygienist can demonstrate the proper technique to use when flossing.

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Richard L. Rausch, DDS

1 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 2201, New York, NY 10020

(646) 863-8184