How many times have you gone to the dentist and your hygienist has asked, “Have you been flossing?” With many recent controversies about the effectiveness of flossing, here is my opinion as an oral health care professional.
In your mouth, there is a sticky film called biofilm (or plaque). Over time, biofilm will build up and, if not dislodged every 24 hours, will become hard and can then only be removed by a dental professional. Biofilm can also cause cavities and/or periodontal disease. Brushing only cleans 65 percent of your tooth’s surface, so by not flossing, that’s 35 percent of your tooth that is left untouched!
While I applaud and encourage any attempt at flossing, there is a right and wrong method. If you’re doing it wrong, you’ll cause more harm than good. Take about 18 inches of floss and wrap most of it around the middle finger of your choosing, then wrap the small remaining amount around the other middle finger. Using your pointer fingers, gently guide the floss between the teeth, bending it into a C-shape. Continue downward until you feel any sort of resistance. You are essentially giving your tooth a hug with the floss. Make sure you do not saw back and forth, rather, move the floss up and down. You don’t want to be slicing through your gums!
You can begin anywhere in your mouth you’d like, just make sure you aren’t skipping any teeth. I find it’s easiest to start on the top and work my way from one side to the other, then dropping down and doing the same for the bottom.
There are two different kinds of floss available: waxed and unwaxed. Whichever you choose is completely up to you, as they both are equally effective at removing plaque. If you have a larger space that floss is too small for, they also make small brushes called interdental aids. (Some of you have probably used them once or twice if you had braces!)
Any effort toward better oral healthcare is a step in the right direction. I believe there are still benefits to flossing, contrary to what has been circulating in the news. If you have any questions, just find yourself a dental hygiene student – we will be more than happy to give you a demonstration on the proper flossing techniques!