How Important is Flossing

flossingFlossing is an oral care procedure that should be done daily. Flossing once a day keeps the gums and teeth healthy. Before the instructions on how to floss are discussed, it is relevant to explain why flossing is important; what it does, and what happens when an individual continually skips to floss.

Why is Flossing Important?

The sides of the teeth have spaces that usually start around the cervical third of the crown. The term cervical third, means the part of the tooth that is closest to its neck area; the crown being the head and the root, being the body; therefore, the middle area between the crown and the root is the cervical area. Those spaces between teeth are normally occupied by interdental papillae. This is the part of the gums that are triangular in shape to purposely fill those spaces between the teeth. As healthy as the interdental papillae can be, since it is fairly soft, it does not totally block out the food debris when people chew. Food debris can still get in between the spaces between the teeth. Even the latest and most advanced toothbrushes cannot remove the food debris that gets stuck between the teeth. Failure to floss for a long time can cause bad breath. It can also lead to carious lesions or tooth decay in between teeth; these caries are not easily detected. This is where flossing plays a vital role.

Flossing removes the materia alba; it is the whitish, or cream-colored clumps that are composed mainly of food debris that attach itself onto the teeth along the gum lines. These remnants add to bad breath, because it is a breeding ground for bacteria. Flossing after brushing, removes the remnants of materia alba in hard-to-reach areas during brushing.

Some people would skip flossing because some ways of flossing could be messy, because using just the string type of floss could activate the release of saliva, making flossing tedious. Today, manufacturers have come up with innovative ways of making flossing easy. Flossing has gone a long way; from toothpicks with floss, to floss holders. Some flosses also come with firm needle-like plastic tips that also allow ease of use.

There are different types of flosses available in the market:

  1. Waxed floss-This type of floss is easy to insert between the teeth and glides through smoothly.
  2. Unwaxed floss-This type of floss creates more friction to the tooth surface. Inserting this type of floss may not be easy, but it is effective in detaching sticky food particles attached along the sides of the tooth closest to the gum line.
  3. Tape form-This type of floss does not easily break and does not split into finer strands. This form also glides between the teeth smoothly.
  4. Floss Toothpicks or Toothpick Floss-There are flosses that are attached to toothpicks that serve as handles. This type is easy to insert in the mouth and is less messy. Individuals use this if they prefer to keep their fingers dry. It also prevents having to dispense too much floss.
  5. Flavored and unflavored-Any of the flosses above may be flavored or unflavored. Mint flavored flosses provide a more pleasant taste and scent. Unflavored flosses are generally less expensive.

Experimenting on which works best is recommendable, but waxed, tape form, and mint-flavored flosses are commonly preferred.

Floss holders are also available in the market. Floss holders minimize having to put the index fingers or thumbs inside the mouth. Having more choices makes flossing a more delightful experience.

A Significant Piece of Information:
Before starting to floss, it is important to emphasize that it is best practice to use a back and forth, sliding movement to insert the floss in between teeth. Yanking, pushing, or snapping the floss into the interdental space, which is the space between the teeth, is not acceptable because it could cause damage to the interdental papillae. There is also a part of the gum that has an attachment to the root area of the tooth, so inserting the floss 1mm. or 2 mm. deep within the gum line, is just about the right depth that it can go.

To Floss the Lower Teeth:

Dispense 12 to 18 inches of floss and wrap the parts of the floss that is closer to both ends around the middle fingers of both hands, making sure that there is at least 4 to 5 inches of floss that is free in between hands. Keep both hands apart to make the floss taut enough, and press the tip of the index fingers of both hands against the floss, leaving a clearance of at least 1 to 2 inches between the tips of the index fingers. This will now allow the index fingers to guide the floss into the mouth, and slide the floss between the teeth.

To Floss the Upper Teeth:

Dispense the same amount of floss. This time, wrap the floss around the index fingers of both hands until there is just 4 to 5 inches left unwrapped; again, keeping the floss nice and taut. This time, press the tip of the thumbs of both hands onto the free floss, leaving a clearance of 1 to 2 inches of floss in between them. Let the thumb guide the floss in the mouth towards the upper teeth this time.

Flossing can begin between the central incisors, or the two front teeth. It could also start from the farthest molar of one side, working all the way to the other side, or towards the middle. Whichever way to go, or whichever works best, can be used, to make sure that every space between teeth has been flossed.

To Brush Before, or After Flossing:

Brushing the teeth first before flossing is a good practice. This removes the bulk of the remnants of food in the mouth. Brushing AGAIN after flossing is also acceptable and sometimes, recommendable, especially for individuals who do not floss daily. Brushing lightly again and gargling, further removes the food debris that has been dislodged during flossing.

Flossing everyday keeps the gums and teeth healthy and strong. It also helps a lot in keeping the breath fresh. It is worth taking the time out to floss at least once a day. Make it a habit.