If you don't floss, you're not doing your teeth—or your health—any favors. Flossing removes plaque that brushing can't get to, making your teeth and gums healthier.
How to Floss Properly
It's important to floss properly in order to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Here are some tips on how to do it effectively:
- Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on your toothbrush.
- Wrap the floss around your middle finger and use your index finger to guide it along your teeth.
- Be sure to go under the gum line and move the floss up and down several times before moving on to the next tooth.
- Spit out the debris after you're done flossing.
The Benefits of Flossing
Flossing your teeth is one of the most important things you can do for your oral health. Though it’s often overlooked, flossing removes plaque and bacteria from teeth and gums, helping to prevent cavities and gum disease. Here are some more specific benefits of flossing regularly:
1. Prevents Cavities
Cavities occur when plaque buildup leads to tooth decay. Plaque is a sticky film of food debris, bacteria, and saliva. When plaque is not removed, it can harden into tartar, which is much more difficult to remove. If cavities are not treated, they can cause pain, infection, and eventually tooth loss. By flossing daily, you can remove plaque before it has a chance to turn into tartar and damage your teeth.
2. Improves Gum Health
Gum disease occurs when plaque buildup leads to inflammation of the gums. If left untreated, gum disease can damage the gums and the bone that supports the teeth. Flossing helps remove plaque from teeth and gums, so that gum disease does not have a chance to develop or worsen. Regular flossing can also help reduce bleeding gums caused by inflammation.
Why You Should Floss Every Day
Most people know they should floss every day, but few do it. Flossing is important because it helps remove plaque and bacteria from your teeth and gums. Plaque is a sticky film of food debris, saliva, and bacteria that forms on your teeth. If you don't remove plaque, it can harden into tartar, which can cause gum disease.
Gum disease is an infection of the gums that can lead to tooth loss. The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. Gingivitis causes redness, swelling, and bleeding of the gums. If you have gingivitis, your gums may bleed when you brush or floss your teeth. Gingivitis is reversible with good oral hygiene.
If plaque isn't removed, it can turn into tartar (calculus). Tartar is harder to remove than plaque and can only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist. Tartar below the gum line cannot be removed by brushing or flossing – only professional cleaning can remove it.
If tartar isn't removed, it can cause periodontitis (gum disease). Periodontitis occurs when the ligaments and bones that support your teeth are destroyed by tartar buildup. This results in deeper pockets forming between your teeth and gums, where even more plaque can accumulate. As periodontitis worsens over time, more bone and tissue are destroyed. Eventually, the tooth loosens to the point where it falls out or has to be extracted (pulled).
Flossing removes plaque from areas where your toothbrush cannot reach – between your teeth and just under your gum line. Brushing alone will not remove all the plaque from these areas, so it's important to floss daily in addition to brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.