Flossing 101

Most of us have been taught to practice good oral hygiene from our childhood. We’ve been needled to brush our teeth twice a day, floss every day, and to visit the dentist twice a year. True to form, majority of us would’ve followed our mothers’ strict instructions about dental hygiene up to adulthood and would pass this knowledge to our own offspring.

However, the dental industry is abuzz with recent news that flossing is not an essential dental routine. See, while the literature vouching for oral prophylaxis and frequent brushing of teeth abound the medical community, the same cannot be said for flossing. In fact, there are few studies about flossing, and whatever studies there are would inconclusively say that flossing is not as essential as what we once thought. Is there any truth to this claims?

Do we really need to floss?

flossing 101This is a question that would lead to a winded answer. To sum it up, the American Dental Association says that “cleaning between teeth removes plaque that can lead to cavities or gum disease from the areas where a toothbrush can’t reach.” Referred to as “interdental cleaning,” the technique is effective in removing debris stuck between teeth that can cause significant oral problems in the long run.

This is a statement that is supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The organization acknowledges that flossing is “an important oral hygiene practice.” If the food debris are not cleaned between teeth, tooth decay and gum disease can develop.

However, while flossing is the most common form of interdental cleaning, it is not the only means of doing so. In fact, there are instances when oral conditions or appliances (such as braces) can make it impossible for people to floss their teeth. For this reason, there is a wide variety of interdental cleaners available in the market. Chief among them are interdental brushes, wooden sticks, oral irrigators, end tufted brush, and interdental tips, among others.

As to which one to select, it would depend upon your dental structure and your dentist. If you have a narrow gap between your teeth and you usually come out with little bits of food when you floss, then you would probably benefit the most from flossing. However, if the space between your teeth is a little bit wider, then you can probably benefit from brushes and wooden sticks.

How should we floss?

Improper flossing can damage your gums and give you more problems in the long run. Thankfully, there is an easy way to do it:

  1. Wrap the floss around your middle finger, then wind the remaining floss around the middle finger of your opposite hand.
  2. Hold it tightly between your forefingers and thumbs.
  3. Gently guide the floss between your teeth in an up and down movement. Do not bring it down to your gums.
  4. When it reaches the gum line, curve it into a C-shape against your tooth and slide it into the space between the tooth and gum.
  5. Remember to floss all your teeth and to keep your movements away from the gum line.