Why should I floss?

Are you one of the many patients who do not floss your teeth everyday? Well, you’re not alone. But did you know that brushing only cleans around 70% of the teeth surface area?

We know it’s not everybody’s favourite activity, but daily flossers usually have shorter and quicker dental hygiene visits, have fewer cavities and better overall health in general. With this in mind, a 2-minute daily investment in your future oral health is really not so bad, not to mention preventing bad breath.

The act of flossing helps to remove plaque buildup and food debris that you may not notice just from looking at your reflection in the mirror. If left in place, this plaque and excess food particles can sit in the gaps between each of your teeth, generating acid. This acid can then cause tooth decay and cavities, and ultimately increases your risk of developing gum disease.

Gum disease can attack the bones that support your teeth and the lower third of your face. By practising proper oral hygiene, you can help to preserve your facial structure and look younger for longer. Perhaps flossing is really the secret to the fountain of youth!

When to floss?

First of all, many people are surprised to learn that flossing is best done before brushing, in terms of the sequence you should follow. Through randomised clinical trials, flossing prior to brushing was ultimately proven to remove a greater quantity of harmful bacteria overall.

As for your flossing frequency, while you should always brush your teeth twice a day, most dentists will agree that flossing is only necessary once a day.

The best time to floss is typically at night time, before you go to bed. This ensures your teeth are clean during your sleep, and free of any debris from the food you’ve eaten earlier in the day.

How to Floss

Flossing shouldn’t be a chore, and should only take you a couple of minutes each day. Start by breaking off around 45cm (think of a 30cm ruler, plus another half of that) of your chosen floss. If you have mostly wide gaps between your teeth, you may prefer flat dental tape. Otherwise, for those with snug gaps between each of their teeth, a thinner, shred-resistant floss may work better for you. If it goes easily between your teeth, that’s the right thickness for you. 

Once you have your piece of floss, slide the tape or string between each of your teeth. As you do this, create a C-shaped bend around each tooth in a forwards direction for a few strokes, and then backwards for another few strokes, before moving on to the next tooth. This ensures you capture as much plaque as possible from around the curves of your teeth.

If you have braces or bridges, try a specialised floss like Superfloss, a stiff-ended dental floss that you can thread beneath the main wire of your braces and a spongy component that slides easily between your teeth.

If you have a child, it is important to teach them the importance of flossing at a young age. Once a child’s teeth start to fit closely together, parents should help them to floss, since they don’t have the dexterity to floss on their own until around the age of 10.

If you having trouble manipulating floss, try other alternatives like the Waterpik or interdental brushes.

If you notice a little bit of blood, don’t be alarmed. This is fairly common (especially if you don’t floss often enough), and just means that your gum is inflamed – likely from a buildup of plaque that needs to be removed. If you’re concerned, you can always book in for a check up and cleaning with your dentist/hygienist. Daily flossing, twice-daily brushing, regular 6-monthly checkups and a healthy diet should have this symptom sorted in no time!

By creating and maintaining good oral hygiene habits, you can greatly help to ensure healthy teeth and gums for life. If you’re not already in the daily habit, it really is time to get flossing!