The old saying goes “Be true to your teeth or they’ll be false to you.” If you don’t take good care of your teeth, you could end up with severe mouth problems or even tooth loss. But brushing your teeth is just part of the dental care regimen. Your toothbrush can’t reach all of the nooks and crannies between your teeth, but dental floss can. Read on to learn the importance of flossing your teeth and how not flossing can affect your health.
Why Flossing Is So Important
Flossing your teeth can remove the tiny bits and pieces of food that have become wedged between your teeth throughout the day. If you don’t get those bits and pieces out, they will turn into bacteria and eventually plaque.
Plaque is a film of bacteria and sugars that can coat the teeth. Everyone has plaque on their teeth, which is why brushing is important – it gets rid of the plaque. If you don’t brush often, plaque can build up and harden. Once it has hardened, it turns into calculus, also known as tartar. Plaque is responsible for many problems with the teeth and gums including:
- Gingivitis – Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and is characterized by red, swollen gums. Symptoms include tender gums that may bleed during brushing and gums that have receded away from the teeth. Since gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease, it’s easy to treat and reverse any damage done to your teeth.
- Periodontal disease or periodontitis – This is the latest stage of gum disease and is characterized by bleeding gums, loose teeth and infections. If the damage to the gums is bad enough, the teeth may have to be removed.
Plaque doesn’t just affect your mouth, however. It can affect your overall health as well. The plaque that can build up in your arteries is, in fact, the same plaque that coats your teeth. The American Heart Association actually lists periodontal disease as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Here are some of the other health problems that plaque may cause:
- Dementia – A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that people who brushed their teeth less than once a day were more likely to develop dementia.
- Stroke – Those who have gum disease are more likely to have the type of stroke that is caused by blocked arteries.
- Respiratory disease – If plaque and bacteria reach the lungs, it could cause a lung infection.
Plaque and gum disease can also worsen existing health problems such as diabetes, lung diseases and heart disease. If all of this sounds a little worrisome, just remember that a little piece of floss can keep your health in check.
The Right Time To Floss
Because flossing is so important, it really doesn’t matter when you do it, so long as you do it. In the end, it comes down to a matter of preference because no time is really better than another. If you prefer to floss your teeth before you brush your teeth, then feel free to do so. Some experts say that flossing before you brush can be advantageous because it allows the toothpaste to seep in between your teeth and clean those areas that would otherwise be blocked with food particles.
Other experts recommend flossing after brushing because if you loosen food particles before you brush, there’s a chance that the toothbrush might shove them back into your teeth. Whenever you decide to floss, just make sure that you do so consistently, at least once a day.
How To Floss Your Teeth
If flossing has felt uncomfortable or hasn’t removed food particles like you wanted it to, you may have been flossing improperly. Here are the steps for a proper flossing:
- Gently insert the floss between your teeth. Make sure it doesn’t snap as this can damage your gums.
- Move the floss up and down between your teeth. Be sure to do so gently so you don’t irritate your gums.
- Floss all sides of each of your teeth.
The instrument with which you choose to floss is also a matter of preference. You can use the classic dental floss, or dental tape, which comes in waxed and unwaxed varieties as well as different flavors. You can also use interdental cleaners, which include plastic picks that have a small strand of dental floss built into them, or brushes, which have tiny bristles that clean in between your teeth.
It doesn’t matter what you use to floss or if you floss in the mornings, evenings, before brushing or after brushing. What’s important is that you incorporate flossing as a part of your dental care regimen and that you do it daily.