How many times have you been to the dentist and been asked whether you floss regularly? And how many times have you been able to answer truthfully that you do? Probably not very often. In fact, a recent study found that only half of Americans floss daily, and as many as 18.5% don’t floss at all – that’s nearly one out of every five people!
The American Dental Association recommends flossing your teeth every day, in addition to brushing them twice a day. But what benefits does flossing actually give you? Especially if you are already brushing your teeth twice a day, as recommended by dental professionals. We are going to discuss the benefits of flossing your teeth and how you can make it easier and less painful for yourself.
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Flossing Your Teeth Removes And Prevents Dental Plaque
Flossing in between your teeth means you are cleaning the areas that your toothbrush (yes, even your smart electric toothbrush) cannot reach. This prevents the build-up of plaque, which is a sticky coating which forms on your teeth. Plaque is made up of bacteria and sugars. It is constantly forming, and it is colorless, so it can quickly build up without you realizing.
As plaque is colorless, it is easy for you to assume that simply brushing your teeth twice a day is enough. Why would you do more if your teeth are fine as they are? But the problem is that if you leave plaque, it will harden and turn into tartar, which is a yellow or brown color. Once you have tartar on your teeth, you will only remove it by visiting your dentist for a scale and polish.
As tartar builds up, it can cause gingivitis, which is the swelling of your gums, which is the first stage of gum disease. The plaque and tartar can easily travel down below the gum line, where the bacteria they carry can cause severe gum disease, which is also known as periodontal disease. Gum disease might not mean much to you, but it can become very painful, and will eventually lead to tooth decay and eventually tooth loss.
Flossing Prevents Gum Disease
By removing plaque from between your teeth and along/below the gum line where your tooth brushing cannot reach, you are reducing your chance of gum disease. Periodontal disease affects as many as half of adults, and while some people are more prone to it than others, it can affect anyone.
A study on twins in 2008 compared the effects of flossing and not flossing associated with periodontal disease. The study found that the group which flossed their teeth had significantly lower numbers of bacteria associated with gum disease than the group which did not floss.
Good Oral Hygiene Keeps You Healthy
Keeping your mouth healthy is an important part of keeping yourself healthy overall. Periodontal disease has been linked to many chronic illnesses, in particular, chronic heart disease. In fact, it is thought that those who have periodontal disease are nearly twice as likely to have heart disease.
There have been a number of studies looking into the links between gum disease and heart disease. It is thought that the bacteria causing gum disease can enter the bloodstream, where it attaches to fatty deposits. This can cause blood clots which can then cause heart attacks or stroke. It can also cause swelling in the blood vessels, causing them to harden, which means your heart has to work harder to pump the blood around the body, meaning you can get raised blood pressure.
Gum disease has also been linked to other illnesses, although the causes have not all been determined. Patients with diabetes may find that it is harder to control their blood sugar level if they have unhealthy gums than those who have healthy gums, and the bacteria in gum disease can cause or exacerbate lung conditions, particularly in elderly people. Poor oral health in pregnant women has also been linked to premature births, meaning babies are born with lower birth weights.
Flossing Makes Brushing Your Teeth More Effective
The combination of brushing and flossing your teeth is far better than just brushing them. Ideally, the best time to floss your teeth, as recommended by dentists, is before you brush them.
This is because it will not only loosen and remove plaque but also remove food debris from between your teeth that would otherwise block the action of the toothbrush. By removing these from your teeth and gums before you brush, it also enables the toothpaste to reach more areas within your mouth, so the fluoride can have a greater effect on strengthening your tooth enamel.
This goes for using mouthwash too. After you have flossed and brushed your teeth, you can use a fluoride-based mouthwash to finish off your teeth-cleaning routine. This will give your teeth a little more resilience against cavities, and it has an antibacterial action to reduce germs in your mouth which can cause plaque build-up.
Flossing Can Save You Money
By ensuring you floss and brush your teeth regularly, as recommended, as well as having regular dental check-ups, you are doing all you can to prevent gum disease and tooth decay. This will save you a huge amount of money, as the cost of one filling along can be in the $100s!
Flossing takes very little time or effort and can easily form part of your daily tooth ritual. An extra minute or two per day will be well worth it when you don’t have to pay for painful fillings or tooth extractions.
You can make it even easier for yourself by getting a water flosser, which is a great alternative if you don’t like using traditional dental floss. If you would like to know more about water flossing and see our reviews of some of the best water flossers around, take a look at our buyer’s guide.
Flossing Keeps Your Smile Clean!
This is probably the most obvious one. Many people only think to use floss when we have something stuck in our teeth. Flossing is one of the most effective ways of getting rid of stubborn food debris from between our teeth. It is great for people with braces too, although flossing with regular dental floss is harder when you have to navigate around braces. Other methods of flossing are better for this, such as water flossing, which you can read more about here.
How Else Can I Keep My Mouth Healthy?
Maintaining good oral hygiene practices is the most important way to ensure your mouth is healthy. By ensuring dental bacteria and plaque build-up is kept to a minimum, you will be well on the way to having a healthy mouth. But there are other lifestyle considerations which you should take on board too:
- Low sugar diet – the bacteria that cause plaque love sugar as it helps them to respire. Try to limit your sugar intake, as well as cutting down on particularly starchy or sticky foods. Eating a well-balanced diet will boost your immune system and give your body the best resistance against bacteria.
- Limit acidic foods and drinks – acidic products such as orange juice and sodas weaken the minerals in your tooth enamel, causing cavities and tooth decay.
- Stop smoking – smoking causes tooth staining, tooth decay and bad breath. Smokers produce more plaque which causes a greater build-up of tartar, meaning they are more likely to get gum disease. Smoking also puts you at higher risk of oral cancers.
- Manage stress – stress is proven to negatively affect your body in many ways. Stress can cause gum disease to be harder to treat as it weakens your immune system and therefore lowers your resistance to illness.
In addition to these lifestyle factors that you can actively manage, it is good to be aware that certain times your body will be less resistant to gum disease. Hormone fluctuations such as during puberty, pregnancy or the menopause can put you at higher risk because they can affect the composition of your saliva. Some medications can also cause changes in your mouth, such as reduced saliva, which means it is easier for plaque to build up.
Reduced immunity caused by other diseases or treatments can also make you more likely to get gum disease, for example, if you are going through cancer treatment or taking anti-resistance drugs after an organ transplant.
You should now have more of an understanding of why flossing your teeth is so important and how you can maximize your oral health. If you are interested in buying a water flosser, take a look at our reviews of the products we feel are the best devices around.