“It looks like you’ve been flossing your teeth too much,” said no dentist ever. That’s because we all know we should floss daily, but we think up excuses about why flossing is just too cumbersome – it’s too time consuming, too hard and much too tedious to possibly be worth it. We really couldn’t be more wrong. Flossing daily prevents gingivitis and more advanced stages of gum diseases, plus it helps to keep breath fresh and prevent cavities by removing food particles, bacteria and plaque from in-between teeth.
Sometimes we take for granted our current knowledge of preventative dental hygiene measures, including flossing. We know that several measures can be taken to eliminate plaque, gingivitis, gum disease and cavities, but this wasn’t always the case. In the early 1800’s, a dentist named Levi Parmly was the first in the dental profession to focus on preventative dentistry. He recommended that people brush their teeth before bed, a novel idea, and taught his patients to scrape their teeth with a silk thread to prevent dental disease, similar to today’s flossing technique. Today, we’re educated from the time we’re small children that it’s important to brush daily and floss, which is obviously not a new concept. We also know that brushing alone is not powerful enough to prevent plaque buildup. So how do we convince ourselves to take that next step and floss daily?
What it really comes down to is finding the right flossing solution for you – one that fits in with your daily oral healthcare routine. Let’s examine some different tools and techniques for efficient and effective flossing to reduce plaque and gingivitis, prevent cavities and freshen breath.
Different Kinds of Flossing Tools
Regular String Floss
We should all know what string floss looks like since we typically get a container or two from the dentist every year! Today’s string floss is made from plastic beads that are melted and stretched, for durability and flexibility. Floss on the market today is basically an unbreakable string for cleaning in between teeth. Some types of floss also have a wax coating to make it easier to slide in between teeth as well as a flavored coating, typically mint, to help freshen breath. If you’re curious how dental floss is made, check out this video:
But before you get in front of the bathroom mirror to floss, make sure you use the right technique to get the most from your experience.
Here are some tips on how to floss properly:
- Gather approximately 18 inches of floss and wind it around your two pointer fingers (or middle fingers), creating some tension on the string and leaving a few inches of string to floss with.
- Slide the floss gently up and down between your teeth.
- Curve the floss in a “C” shape around each tooth, ensuring that you are getting down below the gumline; also, be sure that you clean both the front and back sides of the tooth.
- Use a new section of floss as plaque/food debris builds up on the string.
If this seems like an easy enough undertaking, go for it! Take that spool of floss that your dentist gave you at your last appointment out of your medicine cabinet and get started. Or, if you think that this technique is too complex or you are concerned with dexterity challenges, not to fear. There are a few alternative options to traditional flossing, which we’ll review below.
Floss picks are a ready-to-use tool designed to make it easier to navigate in between teeth, even with braces present. They are typically a “Y” or “F” shaped plastic device with a small piece of floss running across the opening. Using these flossers eliminates frustration due to ease of maneuverability – you only need one hand to floss – and cuts down on time, making the flossing process quicker. Additionally, due to their size, floss picks make it easier to work on teeth at the back of the mouth.
Note that you may need to use more than one floss pick each time you floss, due to the smaller size of the string. These flossers are a quicker alternative to traditional flossing, but not necessarily as effective. There are mixed reviews since the size of these picks make it harder to reach below the gumline. However, with consistent use, these small, disposable, plastic flossers promote cleanliness between teeth and gums and are a good alternative to not flossing at all/brushing alone.
Water flossing is a great alternative to traditional flossing since it’s clinically proven to effectively remove food particles and plaque from teeth and is gentle yet effective for dental work such as crowns, veneers, implants and braces. Waterpiks are easy to use and convenient – taking only 1-minute to floss your entire mouth each day – using pulsating water to clean in hard to reach areas around your teeth. The pressure of the water stream easily loosens food particles and is 50% more effective for gum health versus string floss.
There are many different brands and models of water flossers on the market (check out our comprehensive guide here), including countertop and portable-sized versions. Many have advanced features and benefits that can help you achieve optimum flossing in only 60 seconds per day. Investing in a water flosser will typically run you between $50-$100, but again, if this solution seems like it’s something that you can easily incorporate into your dental hygiene routine, the cost is totally worth it!
Floss Like a Boss
Although there isn’t an exhaustive array of options available for flossing, choosing from only three, regular string floss, floss picks or water flossing should make it easy to get started (or see what kind of natural alternatives are available). Since string floss and floss picks are inexpensive, pick up one pack of each at the local drug store and try them out for a few days to see which one you like best. If you’re interested in water flossing, you can find many devices on Amazon.com, including models from Waterpik. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s a solution that is sustainable for you so that your dental hygiene routine can improve by reducing plaque and cavities. So, make Dr. Levi Parmly, one of the founding fathers of dentistry proud, and floss like a boss!
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