Every year the routine is the same. You go to your dentist for your annual or hopefully every six months cleaning and the same questions are asked. Have you been brushing your teeth twice every day? The answer is usually mostly yes though more and more people say no. Most people find time to brush their teeth twice a day, and might miss one of those on occasion. Next is the big question. Have you been flossing daily? Only about 40%1 of Americans floss regularly. Many of those who don’t will try to pass it off that they floss often enough to count, even if it is to keep from getting a scolding lecture from their dentist. Most of those people don’t realize that just because they don’t see a difference when they do floss, that the dentist will know by looking that they don’t floss.
Brushing your teeth is great for the part of the teeth that you see BUT there is a whole other part to the tooth that you should be cleaning that can only be reached by floss, your dental hygienist, or your dentist. Tartar build up, gum disease, cavities, and halitosis (bad breath) all begin under the gum line and in that narrow alley between teeth. A tooth brush cannot reach in there to scrub off the biofilm that develops and houses bacteria. Mouthwash can do great things, but it cannot break down that strong film on its own. You clean half of your teeth with brushing, but the hard to reach half should be cleaned by flossing.
Flossing is an important part of the health of your mouth, but it is also vital to your overall health. There are many health conditions that are affected by the health of your mouth. A healthy mouth reduces the risk of heart disease. Infections can gain entry to your cardiovascular system through your mouth. Once an infection makes it into your blood system, it is easily carried to many organs and body systems. Diabetics can also have infection complications and it is more difficult for them to fight infections, which is why it is important to keep their mouth healthy with proper brushing and flossing.
Research suggests that it takes 21-31 days to form a routine habit. It’s never too late to start flossing. Setting an alarm or reminder on your phone, putting the floss where you will see it, and using MedsMinders to remind yourself for the first couple weeks are great tactics to get into the habit of flossing. If you have a hard time flossing or don’t know what kind of floss to use, ask your dentist. Your dentist will be happy that you are trying to floss and can show you the proper way to floss and any tricks that might help you.