If you’re like most people I talk to, your flossing regimen consists of flossing the night before and the day of your dentist appointment. Your palms might even get a bit sweaty and you might try to avert your eyes when the dentist asks how often you floss. Since you’re a thorough brusher, you say, “Oh, a few times a week,” and hope you get away with the white lie.
My friend, Catlin, is a dental assistant and she says the dentist can tell just by looking at your gums whether you floss regularly. “Your teeth and gums don’t lie,” she once told me. (So I came clean with my flossing regimen: once a week, maybe. I’m working on it.)
As it turns out, flossing plays an important role in the quality of your oral and overall health. Here’s why:
- Flossing and brushing are more effective than brushing alone. The soft bristles on your toothbrush work to remove the sticky plaque on your teeth that can cause cavities. Fluoride toothpaste enhances the effect of the toothbrush and can help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth. But neither can clean the hard-to-reach areas that flossing does, like the spaces between teeth and under the gum line.
- Flossing protects your gums. Your gums protect the base of your teeth, where connective tissue attaches to your teeth’s roots to the bones in your jaw. Bacteria can collect in the tiny pockets of your gums, causing inflammation. If left untreated, the bacteria will spread below the gum line into the connective tissue, causing periodontitis.
- Flossing helps prevent disease. Research has shown that the bacteria created in the mouth can spread to other parts of the body, which may lead to heart disease and diabetes, among other illnesses. Flossing daily will help keep the bacteria at bay, leading to a healthier mouth and body.
- Flossing helps banish bad breath. Flossing daily removes the food particles and bacteria that cause bad breath. This makes flossing one of the easiest ways to prevent bad breath.
If these are not enough reasons to improve your flossing philosophy, here’s one more:
- Flossing saves you money. Flossing, along with regular dental exams and cleanings, is an important part of preventive dental care and reduces the likelihood you’ll need expensive dental procedures in the future.
Want to brush up on your flossing skills? Check out this quick tutorial on how to floss your teeth.