Every time you visit the dentist for a checkup, there’s one question you’re almost certain to hear: “Have you been flossing regularly?” For a lot of patients, the answer isn’t always yes. Many people make a point of brushing their teeth twice a day, as the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends, but fewer people follow the recommendation to floss at least once a day. What many don’t realize is that this step plays an important role in dental health. Unlike a toothbrush, which cleans the tops and outer surfaces of the teeth and gums, floss is an interdental cleaner. It’s designed specifically to clean the tight spaces between the teeth and the gap between the base of the teeth and the gums. These are places that a toothbrush can’t reach. An increasing body of evidence suggests that proper dental care, including regular flossing, can do more than keep your smile pretty and healthy. A healthy mouth can also help prevent much more serious diseases, some of which can be life threatening. We take a look at the benefits of flossing and why it is so important to your gums.
What are the benefits of flossing your teeth?
Regular use of dental floss removes plaque, preventing the buildup that can lead to tartar. Simply flossing your teeth can make them look brighter by removing plaque and excess food particles that you may not see in the mirror or in areas that your toothbrush doesn’t reach. Think of a carpet before and after you vacuum. You may not really see the dust and dirt, but once you vacuum and the dust and dirt are removed, the carpet looks brighter. The same principle applies to flossing. Daily flossing doesn’t just keep your teeth healthy—practicing good oral hygiene contributes to your health in other ways, too. There’s an increasing amount of evidence linking periodontal disease to an increased risk of heart disease, although more studies are needed to confirm this link. It also helps prevent tooth decay and can reduce your risk of developing gum disease by removing plaque. In addition, flossing gives you the opportunity to regularly examine your mouth for any swelling or redness. Flossing gives you an opportunity to take a good look at your teeth, tongue, and gums.
How does flossing help your gums?
While periodontal disease is not the primary cause for tooth pulp death, chronically unhealthy gums can increase your risk of losing your teeth or needing a root canal. And even though twice-daily tooth brushing is essential for good oral hygiene, brushing alone may not protect you from gum disease and the tooth loss that can result. Floss can infiltrate the space between the teeth and gums, removing much of the food and plaque that a toothbrush or mouthwash can’t, and protecting your mouth against disease.
Many people who suffer from sensitive or bleeding gums may be tempted to avoid flossing for fear of making their bleeding gums worse. But in fact, flossing can improve the health of your gums, thereby helping to prevent them from bleeding. In a 2006 study, researchers compared the effects of brushing alone vs. brushing and flossing on bleeding gums in 51 sets of twins. One of each twin pair brushed his or her teeth twice a day and the other brushed and flossed twice a day. After two weeks, the twins who flossed had 38 percent fewer bleeding gum areas. Even if you were inconsistent about flossing during your childhood or teen years, it’s never too late to start or maintain good oral hygiene, and you can improve the health of your gums with the right floss product. It’s a fact: flossing daily (combined with brushing and a rinse) helps protect against gingivitis by removing plaque and food particles, keeping your teeth and gums healthy while giving you a more beautiful smile. Flossing is essential to your smile’s health, no matter what your age. And yes, even kids should floss to get used to a healthy oral care routine. You might be asking, “Why is flossing so important?” Here’s the answer: By flossing, you remove plaque and food particles in between your teeth and gums and help prevent gingivitis.
What if you choose not to floss?
When you don’t floss, you’re at risk for two major dental issues in your mouth: Gingivitis, and cavities between your teeth. Without flossing, you are not able to remove dental plaque buildup. There are over 1,000 bacteria in dental plaque. These bacteria can irritate the gum tissue, causing it to become red and inflamed and bleed easily, which breeds more bacteria and causes gingivitis to occur. Another risk of not flossing is that cavities are more likely to form between your teeth. The same dental plaque that causes gingivitis can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria that will destroy the enamel between your teeth, consequently forming a cavity.
Do you have any questions about flossing and your gums? Call Westermeier Martin Dental Care to schedule an appointment with your dentist 716-508-4547.