Floss: Your Single Most Important Weapon

The plaque attacker

You may not realize it, but even when your mouth is clean, it is full of bacteria. These naturally occurring microorganisms accumulate into colonies on your teeth, roots, and tongue known as plaque. Plaque continues to grow throughout the day and night, especially in places where your toothbrush cannot reach. Plaque causes two dental problems: gum irritation and tartar (calculus) growth which leads to gum disease and if left untreated, tooth loss. Sound like a nasty situation? It doesn’t have to be. In fact, you can virtually eliminate all plaque by carefully brushing and properly flossing every day.

It is really that simple: your toothbrush cleans the tops and sides of your teeth, while the floss cleans between them. In two or three minutes, you have taken a giant step in the war against those bad bacteria and gum disease.

Correct flossing is a fairly easy thing to learn. Simply pull off about 18 inches of floss, winding most of it lightly around your middle finger. Do not pull tightly, and cut off your circulation! Then, wind the remaining floss around your other hand’s middle finger, to take up the used floss as you go. Now, push the floss in between your teeth using your index fingers and thumbs. Gently bring the floss up and down several times around both sides of each tooth, making sure to reach below the gum line, forming a ‘C’ around each side of the tooth with the floss. Pull or push it against your gums carefully, so that you do not hurt them; avoid rubbing it from side to side or “sawing”.

If you are not especially skilled with your hands, or if you have to floss someone else’s teeth for them, you may even want to consider a pre-threaded flosser or floss holder. Our hygienists are always available and eager to show you how to use them.

Styles & Flavors

Do not be confused about the wide variety of floss available. Choose the one that appeals to you the most so that you will use it. The style you choose is far less important than the fact that you do floss! When you purchase it, you may want to remember a couple distinguishing factors. Wide floss, also called dental tape, is used if you have large spaces between your teeth. You may also find that waxed flosses are easier to slide between tight teeth or between tight restorations.

Picky, Picky

With all this discussion about removing plaque, you may be wondering if toothpicks and waterpicks are helpful. While toothpicks can effectively remove food lodged between your teeth, they do not actually remove plaque all around the tooth as floss does. Plus, it is important to be gentle with them so that you do not poke and damage your gums or accidentally break off an end.

As for waterpicks, or irrigating devices, they are effective in removing plaque and food from around orthodontic devices like braces. Keep in mind however that nothing replaces proper brushing AND flossing.