There’s no topic discussed at a dental exam that seems to make people more uncomfortable than flossing. As you may already be aware, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends we floss our teeth at least once a day. This is because string dental floss can reach between the teeth in ways brushing or water flossing cannot. In fact, when you don’t floss, you’re only cleaning about 60 percent of your teeth! That’s right - flossing alone cleans about 40 percent of your teeth’s surfaces.
But even though we know that flossing is good for us, ADA recommended, dentist recommended and extremely effective at preventing cavities and keeping breath fresh, many Americans simply don’t do it. In fact, only about 40 percent of Americans floss daily. So, what’s the problem? Why are so many people simply neglecting to care for 40 percent of their teeth? Here are some common excuses why we don’t floss - and how to overcome them.
If you don’t floss often (or at all!), flossing probably hurts. That’s because your gums are sensitive and not used to being flossed. In fact, your gums may even bleed the first few times you start a new flossing routine. The good news (and there’s a lot!) is that not only is this normal, but it's also temporary. Once your gums get used to the feeling of flossing, it should stop hurting - and it should become a whole lot easier to do.
It Takes Too Long
Flossing shouldn’t take more than a minute. Unlike brushing, there’s no minimum time one should spend flossing each day. As long as the floss fits between the teeth and goes all the way up to the gum line to remove all the plaque and food particles between the teeth, you don’t need to linger between teeth. Get in, get out, get clean teeth.
It Makes My Gums Bleed
Another frequent problem we encounter with new flossers is bleeding gums. Bleeding gums are not caused by the floss cutting your gums, but by the buildup of plaque and tartar along the gum line, which causes gingivitis. Once you begin a regular flossing routine, that bleeding should stop, and that gingivitis will usually go away.
Floss Won’t Fit Between My Teeth
Whether your teeth are very crowded or just tightly spaced, sometimes it can be hard to fit some types of floss comfortably between the teeth. Thankfully, there are many different types of floss on the market for you to test drive. If you have tight spaces, you may want to skip the waxed rope-type floss, as that tends to be thicker. Thinner, PTFE floss (such as Glide) may work better for those needing to floss tighter spaces.
If you’re overwhelmed by your choices, ask Dr. Abelar to recommend a type of floss that works well with your teeth.
But I Already Waterpik
Waterpik devices are a great way to "power wash" your teeth. They can even help get some of the plaque and bacteria out from between the teeth, But they aren’t really designed to replace string flossing. Water flossing is especially helpful with patients with braces, as it can help clean around the edges and crevices of the wires and brackets. But you should still be flossing with string floss, no matter what.
I Have Arthritis / It's Physically Difficult to Floss
As we age, flossing can be a difficult task due to reduced flexibility, but this is also the worst time to stop flossing. That’s because the older we get, the higher our risk for periodontitis. Periodontitis (also called periodontal disease or advanced-stage gum disease) doesn’t just affect the gums, it can also cause everything from diabetes to stroke. If you find yourself struggling to maneuver the floss properly, there are devices that can help make flossing easier, including supplementing with a water flosser. Speak to Dr. Abelar if you are struggling to care for your teeth.
But I Have Braces or a Permanent Retainer
Braces and permanent retainers certainly complicate flossing, but they don’t need to prevent it. Ask Dr. Abelar or his team to show you how to use a floss threader to thread under the wire of your braces and clean up to the gum line. Yes, floss threaders will add a little bit of time to your daily oral care routine, but you’re already investing so much time and money into braces - an extra minute to ensure your teeth remain healthy and beautiful is nothing. After all, why go through all that trouble to straighten your teeth if you aren’t going to keep them clean?
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons people come up with to not floss, but none of them is good enough to prevent you from flossing. If you have any challenges starting a flossing routine, please speak to Dr. Abelar. He will be happy to help come up with a solution to help make flossing as easy as possible so your teeth get the best care possible.
For any questions or concerns, please call Dr. Abelar at 858-866-9692.