When it comes to removing debris and bacteria in the mouth, brushing your teeth doesn’t always do the job. This is where flossing can give your oral health a ‘leg up.’
Flossing removes food particles caught between teeth that a tooth brush cannot reach or dislodge.
When you eat food, an acid enters the mouth through saliva flow. As the initial stage of digestion, this acid is designed to break food down as it’s chewed.
Although beneficial to the digestive process, this acid is potent. It is so strong that it can soften tooth enamel. This is why it is wise to delay brushing for 20 to 30 minutes after eating. The abrasive nature of a toothbrush and toothpaste can wear away precious tooth enamel while in this softened state.
Food needs to be removed before it starts to rot. Food particles that remain in the mouth allow oral bacteria to thrive. As bacteria eat, they reproduce – rapidly. How rapidly? The sticky film you feel on teeth in the evening is actually a coating of oral bacteria that has accumulated since your morning brushing.
Known as plaque, this film coats the teeth, tongue and gums. When not removed daily, plaque can form into rock-hard bacterial masses that attach to teeth. This is referred to as calculus (or tartar) and is what your hygienist scrapes off teeth during dental cleanings. Once formed, it cannot be brushed or flossed away.
This is why it is important to keep oral bacteria levels to a minimum. The devotion of twice daily brushing and daily flossing helps you avoid problems such as cavities and gum disease.
For decades, brushing and flossing have been the tried-&-true techniques for maintaining a healthy mouth. However, like most things, proper techniques can mean the difference between somewhat helpful and very effective.
Brushing should be done with a soft to medium bristle tooth brush using a fluoridated toothpaste. You should use a circulation motion on the front and back of each tooth and a swirling motion along the tops.
Flossing also requires the proper technique to have a positive impact. For example, researchers at the University of Washington School of Dentistry found that when children between ages 4 – 13 had their teeth professionally flossed for five days a week for just over a year and a half, there was 40% decrease in cavity risk. A group of the same ages who flossed on their own saw no such benefit.
Yet, many people feel flossing is awkward. They claim it cuts circulation in their fingers and it’s difficult to reach certain areas in the mouth. For people with large fingers, this seems to be a significant obstacle. Too, people who have dexterity problems, such as arthritic challenges, feel frustrated by the movement required.
For easy flossing tips, watch our short video: https://www.banrbarbatdds.com/dental_care.php
For situations where self-flossing is too challenging, we often recommend water flossers. These are easy to use, affordable and can be more effective than flossing when challenges exist.
In spite of daily flossing and twice daily brushing, other factors can impact your potential for a healthy mouth. As mentioned prior, each time you eat, the acid attack in your mouth places tooth enamel in a vulnerable position. For those who are frequent snackers, they are more susceptible to oral problems due to an increased number of acid attacks throughout the day.
People who sip sodas during the day also have a greater risk. The acid in the soda coupled with the drink’s sticky sugar is a double wallop when it mixes with the acid in the mouth. Often, people drink sodas between meals, which means the mouth is being bombarded by acid far too often to ward off potential damage.
If people who have lost teeth due to insufficient oral hygiene could go back, daily brushing and flossing would take on a much higher priority in their day. Adult teeth are a ‘one-&-done’ deal. Losing them opens the door for decisions that can be costly and even frustrating (just ask most long-time denture wearers!).
If you can’t get comfortable with flossing, consider purchasing a water flosser and make it part of your everyday oral hygiene routine. In addition to reducing your risk for cavities and gum disease, you’ll be able to enjoy fresher breath and a more confident smile.
Behind on your dental cleanings and check-ups? Let’s get you up to speed before the year’s end. Call 1-866-9-Smiles to schedule an appointment.