Posted November 19, 2014
Is it really necessary to floss your teeth? That’s a question many people ask their dentist. Flossing will not prevent tooth decay, or cavities, but combined with daily brushing, flossing removes plaque and food particles from teeth, reducing the risk of cavities. But flossing also helps reduce the chance for developing gum disease.
Understanding gum disease
According to WebMD, gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is an infection of the tissues and bones that surround and support teeth.
There are two types of gum disease:
- Gingivitis – Affects only the gum tissue surrounding teeth
- Periodontitis – Attacks bone and tissue under the gumline that support teeth
Food particles left in one’s mouth can turn into acids that attract oral bacteria. Together they attack tooth enamel and create cavities. These food particles also can create a sticky plaque bacteria that, if not removed, will harden like cement and become tartar, which can get into the gums and irritate your teeth and roots. If left untreated, your teeth and bone will continue to deteriorate.
Many people don’t get the full value of flossing because of their technique. The American Dental Association provides these guidelines:
- Use about 18 inches of new floss. Wind an end around each middle finger. As you floss, wind the used floss up while letting some clean floss unwind from your other hand, so you’re always using clean floss.
- Hold floss tightly between the thumb and forefinger and gently slide between teeth.
- Gently hook the floss like a C around the tooth to clean near the root. Move floss up and down to remove food particles and plaque at the gumline and between teeth.
- Avoid popping the floss between teeth. Again, be gentle. You don’t want your gums to bleed.
- Remember to floss all of your teeth, even the hard-to-reach molars in the back.