Twice-daily toothbrushing is not the only important stage of an effective oral care regime. It is also essential to floss regularly in order to remove and prevent the build-up of plaque between your teeth.
Although it is relatively simple to perform, the vast majority of Britons don’t floss. According to research from YouGov, only 31% of people say that they clean between their teeth on a typical day.[i] Flossing might be an easy exercise to skip, but we at Ten Dental+Facial are here to remind you why it should always be on your daily to-do list as part of ensuring a healthy mouth.
Why should I floss?
Toothbrushing alone cannot reach the tight spaces between your teeth in order to remove food particles and plaque, which is why flossing is vital. If plaque is allowed to build up in these hard-to-reach areas, bacteria contained within the plaque can generate acids that damage the enamel, causing tooth decay.
Besides this, plaque can accumulate along the gum line and below it where the toothbrush cannot reach. Unless this plaque is removed by daily flossing, it can eventually harden into tartar and gum disease could develop, whereby the gums bleed easily during toothbrushing and become irritated, inflamed and sore.
Gum disease is a major concern, as it could increase your risk of developing other health complications, including stroke, diabetes and heart disease. Gum disease has also been linked with pregnancy problems and dementia.[ii]
When should I floss?
In addition to brushing teeth twice a day, NHS guidance states that people should floss or use other interdental cleaners (e.g. brushes or tape) as part of daily oral hygiene from the age of 12.[iii] It is recommended that you floss at least once every day, preferably before brushing your teeth, but you can floss at any time throughout the day.
Flossing can be easy to incorporate into your daily routine, as you can floss after a meal, in the morning or in the evening before you go to bed. Furthermore, floss and other interdental cleaners are simple to use on the go, as these products are small and lightweight enough to be carried in a bag or pocket.
Regular flossing is crucial to plaque removal – once this hardens into tartar, only a dental professional will be able to remove it from your teeth. That’s why it is important to visit your dentist for routine examinations and cleanings to remove plaque and tartar build-up.
What should I floss with?
Your teeth will be different to everyone else’s, so you will need to select floss or other interdental cleaners that appropriately fit the size of the areas between your teeth. Dental floss is a thin, soft thread, but if you find this hard to use, you can try dental tape, as this is thicker. You may have enough gaps between your teeth that you can use an interdental brush, which should fit snugly without having to be forced into these areas.
When you first start flossing – especially if you haven’t done so in a while – it is perfectly normal for your gums to be a little tender and bleed. It is important to carry on flossing your teeth and this reaction should subside and eventually stop as your gums become healthier. If you still experience regular bleeding after a few days, visit us at Ten Dental+Facial and we can check to make sure you are flossing correctly.
Although it can feel like an annoying chore, flossing is an essential task that can make all the difference to achieving excellent long-term oral health.
[i] Smith, M. (2017) Three in ten Brits only brush their teeth once a day. YouGov. Link: https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2017/10/23/three-ten-brits-only-brush-their-teeth-once-day. [Last accessed: 20.02.20].
[ii] NHS. (2018) The health risks of gum disease. Link: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/health-risks-of-gum-disease/. [Last accessed: 20.02.20].
[iii] NHS. (2019) Why should I use dental floss? Link: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/dental-health/why-should-i-use-dental-floss/. [Last accessed: 20.02.20].