Flossing is more important than brushing your teeth! I know, bet you didn’t think you would hear a dentist tell you that. For some unknown reason flossing is something the average Australian tends to actively avoid, managing on average to floss just once a week.
Mainly due to great marketing by the major oral health brands, the toothbrush is the poster child for achieving great oral hygiene. However if you think about it logically your toothbrush can only do so much. Those bristles have limited reach no matter how soft, small, long, fuzzy, fast or expensive your toothbrush is. Your toothbrush is greatly assisted by your saliva, lips, cheeks and tongue and together they all do a great job of cleaning the exposed surfaces of your teeth.
Sadly, the surfaces between your teeth get no love. The toothbrush really isn’t up to the job. Pretty much nothing gets to these hidden surfaces and crevices, except bacteria and….the unsung hero of the oral hygiene world – FLOSS.
Without using floss, bacteria is left alone and this creates the perfect breeding ground for developing tooth decay. Have you ever wondered why the dentist insists on always taking x-rays? I can assure you it isn’t to increase the cost of your dental bill. It is to assess the areas that you can’t see, the hidden areas that can only be effectively cleaned by regular flossing. Not unsurprisingly this is where dentists find the most problems!
You would be surprised (or maybe not) by the number of patients who swear black and blue that they floss every day, when the state of their teeth tell a completely different story. Dentists know when you are fibbing about how often you floss. True story – my father has been a dedicated flosser his whole life. He flosses twice a day without fail, and often only uses his toothbrush once a day. He recently visited the dentist (his first visit in 12 years – which is ironic given his son is a dentist) and he didn’t have a single cavity.
So let’s read about the excuses I hear everyday from my patients about why they don’t floss….
Food Doesn’t get Caught Between My Teeth so I Don’t Need to Floss
Flossing is not for removing food, although if you have a left over bit of steak caught between your teeth floss is better than a toothpick! Flossing is designed to remove a macroscopic biofilm on your teeth, commonly known as dental plaque. Dental plaque is a sticky, complex of bacteria that are designed to create holes in your teeth and eat away the bone that holds them in place. That’s why you should floss. Dead simple.
I Don’t Know How to Floss My Teeth
Flossing correctly is tricky and can take a while to get the hang of when you first start, but with practice it can be done quickly and effectively. Check out instructions on how to floss at the end of this article. Your middle finger is the key to a great flossing technique.
I Am Not Coordinated Enough to Floss
If you suffer from compromised manual dexterity there are some alternatives to flossing which can do a similar job. Firstly there are floss holders, which are a Y shaped device that help hold the floss in place particularly when you are reaching your back molars. The other alternative is to use interdental brushes, which are like small pipe cleaners that can also do a good job removing plaque. These are an excellent alternative if you are having trouble with gum disease.
I Don’t Have Time to Floss
It does add time to the morning and evening teeth cleaning routine, especially when you are forming the habit. Truthfully, you are better off allocating time every second day to do it properly rather than doing a half-hearted job everyday. Think of it as an investment now that you will save you money (and chewing time) later if you don’t have to wear dentures! Once you have your technique down pat, a thorough floss should take around 1 minute for your whole mouth.
It Hurts When I Floss
This is most likely because you already have gum disease, which is what flossing is designed to prevent. Seeing your dentist to get a head start on addressing gum disease is a good idea, but after that you need to push through the pain and keep flossing so that the condition doesn’t reoccur.
My Teeth Are Too Close Together
Either your teeth have joined together with plaque and calculus, in which case you need to see a dentist to remove the build-up so there are gaps again. Or, you need to get some thinner slippery floss. Oral B Satin Floss or Colgate Tape are great for these spacing situations.
The Floss Keeps Shredding
This is as a result of an existing dental problem, such as decay or a poorly made filling, which will require attention by a dentist. Don’t leave this situation alone as it will only get worse.
I Have Dental Work that Makes Flossing Impossible
Your dentist should be able to give you advice as to how to get around these difficulties as it is important to do so. This is often as a result of a bridge, which is expensive and will fail early if it is not cleaned properly.
So, for all the non-flossers out there, your excuses are blown. Time to get flossing. It is a lifetime habit that will save you money on future dental treatments, but don’t tell your dentist I told you this.