When it comes to keeping your mouth clean, brushing and flossing are indispensable. Most people adhere strictly to a regimen of brushing their teeth. However, flossing is often neglected.
Although brushing can remove much of the plaque and debris from the surfaces of your teeth, a toothbrush is unable to reach deep into the interdental spaces. As a result, plaque and food particles can become trapped between the teeth. Just as cavities can develop on other areas of the enamel, the sides of a tooth are also susceptible to decay.
The plaque that rests on the teeth remains in place until it is cleaned away. The sticky substance is actually a combination of leftover food and oral bacteria. The bacteria within the plaque feed on simple carbohydrates that may be left in your mouth. As they feed, the microbes release acid. This acid eats away at your tooth enamel, causing cavities.
Preventive dental applications, such as sealants, help protect your teeth from decay. Sealants form a protective barrier between your teeth and the bacterial acids that can damage them. However, sealants are only applied to the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Flossing is needed to discourage the development of decay on the sides of the teeth.
Consequently, failing to floss can promote to decay. In addition, it can make your routine dental visits longer. The tartar that the dentist scrapes away during a routine dental cleaning is actually hardened plaque. When plaque is not removed in a timely manner, it hardens. Although plaque between your teeth can easily be flossed away, tartar cannot. The ugly, yellow accumulations that can occur on your tooth surfaces can only be removed by your dentist. Flossing is necessary to remove plaque and prevent tartar from forming in the interdental spaces.
What is flossing?
Flossing is basically cleaning between your teeth. There are multiple types of flossers that you can choose to use. Here are a few of them:
- String floss. String floss is likely what comes to mind when you think of dental floss. It is made of nylon thread that can slip easily between your teeth to help remove debris. String floss is available in waxed and unwaxed varieties.
- Floss picks. If you find it difficult to navigate string floss about your mouth, a floss pick may help. The Y-shaped tool is already pre-threaded with floss. You simply hold the plastic handle to direct the thread between your teeth. Although floss picks may not clean quite as well as traditional string floss due to limitations with navigating the floss around the teeth, a floss pick is a much better alternative to not flossing at all.
- Interdental brushes. Interdental brushes resemble tiny pipe cleaners. The bristles are soft, and they are easily inserted between the teeth.
- Water flossers. Water flossers or oral irrigators are also great for cleaning between the teeth. A water flosser includes a wand that is connected to a reservoir of water. The wand directs a concentrated stream of water into the spaces between your teeth to flush away the plaque and debris. Water flossers are great for people who find flossing with traditional string floss difficult. In addition, water flossing can simplify the flossing process for people who have a large amount dental work or who wear dental appliances, such as braces.
When should you use dental floss?
As you add flossing to your regular dental regimen, you may wonder whether you should floss before or after you brush your teeth. Before or after brushing is generally unimportant. Just be sure to insert the practice into your daily schedule at a time that can be observed regularly. Still, some may argue that flossing at the end of the day is most beneficial, since your mouth produces less saliva as you rest. Dry mouth promotes an increase in the bacterial population in your mouth. Thus, cleaning your teeth thoroughly before bed can help ensure that there are fewer harmful substances in your mouth to damage your teeth as you sleep.
Is flossing only for adults?
Flossing is great for everyone. Young children frequently develop cavities between their teeth, and flossing can help prevent the decay. In addition, teaching a young child to floss can help him or her maintain the beneficial habit for a lifetime.
To learn more about flossing and its benefits, schedule an appointment with our office.