Thursday, March 15, 2012

Teeth Talk | Flossing

"Are you flossing everyday?" That is something you probably hear often when you see your dentist or dental hygienist, right? Studies show that 10-21% of Americans are flossing on a daily basis. 

Today, I am going to discuss a few things: 1. how often one should floss, 2. purpose/benefits of flossing, 3. types of floss, 4. proper way to floss, 5. Is it normal to bleed when you floss? 6. Other comments about flossing.  

1. How often should I floss? You SHOULD be flossing every single day, if not every other day. The reason why is because it only takes plaque about 24-48 hours to mineralized once oral hygiene is neglected. In other words, you want to get rid of that plaque before it gets hard! (especially if you are eating starchy foods such as crackers, bread, cookies, chips, etc..)
*Plaque = biofilm layer that is formed from bacteria, carbohydrates, and salvia. Plaque is soft/slimy, and it sometimes can be invisible to the eye. 
*Calculus (aka tartar)= mineralized plaque/biofilm that can be found above and or below the gums. Calculus irritates the gums causing inflammation, bone loss, and bleeding. 

2. What is the purpose and benefits of flossing? The purpose and benefits of flossing is to prevent cavities, gingivitis, and other possible dental problems. Having plaque, calculus, or food sit in between your teeth will definitely cause an odor and irritation to the gums. Irritation to the gums may result in bleeding, redness, and sometimes puffiness. 

What Are the Symptoms of Gingivitis

3. What type of floss or products that could be used in between the teeth? Aside from floss, there are other alternatives such as: interdental brushes, end tuft brushes, tip/wedge stimulators, sticks and picks. 

        Set of interdental brushes.

Most of these alternative products (photos above) are best for people with big spaces (embrasures) in between the teeth, gum recession with root exposure, bridges, crowns, and/or implant areas. 
*IMPORTANT: you should NOT use those products if your spaces in between the teeth (papilla) is filled and/or if you do not have adequate dexterity (ie. arthritis, tremors). Always consult with your dental professional before use.

  Many patients of all ages prefer using this type of floss picks instead of the string floss because they feel it is more convenient. Personally, I do NOT mind my patients using these IF this is the only way to get them to floss. Although the floss picks may remove some plaque and food debris, I feel that with the string floss, you have more control and flexibility of how much more you can remove! I always tell my patients: if you have two good hands to text and play games, I expect you to use string floss. 

airfloss review

The Air Flosser by Sonicare is the newest product to floss your teeth. I have not tried it nor have I seen it in person, so I don't really have an opinion. If you are interested, I suggest reading some reviews online. 

Types of floss: There is no difference in effectiveness with the types of floss (ie. waxed or unwaxed)- whatever works for you. 
Waxed floss- helps to prevent trauma to the gums; able to slide in between the teeth easily ;rarely sheds and breaks 
Unwaxed floss- much thinner, better for tight spaces, more likely to break; if not careful, may cause trauma 
Types of material used in floss: silk, nylon, expanded PTFE (wax)
4. Proper way to floss. I found a very good tutorial on youtube. 
Keys to flossing properly: Hugging the tooth with the flossing (making a C-shape), going up AND down, do NOT go back and forth. ALSO! the closer you hold your string floss, the more control you have.

5. Is it normal to bleed when you floss? Friends! It is okay if you bleed while flossing! I hear it too many times from my patients that they get scared of the blood, so they stop flossing. Please don't stop flossing because of the blood. A few reasons why you are bleeding: 1. YOU do NOT floss enough, 2. there is something stuck in between your teeth (whether it is plaque, calculus, food), 3. possibly the crown or filling you had done is irritating the gums. My motto when it comes to flossing is: The more you floss, the less you will bleed ^_^ 

6. Other comments about flossing. Floss is inexpensive, small and compact. So you could literrally keep a pack of floss in your car, purse, pocket, work desk, etc..So there should be no excuses as to why you cannot floss. 

If you have crowded (misaligned) teeth, bridges, orthodontic wires, or implants, you should be flossing even more. 
As much as flossing may be painful, time consuming...just remember that practice makes perfect. So don't give up ^_^ Flossing hurts so good! 

Happy Flossing! 


  1. Thank you! I just flossed and brushed my teeth after my lunch but after reading this, I want to go floss AGAIN!

    1. Yah...glad you liked this post. Check back weekly for more Teeth Talk! Thanks for checking in ^_^

  2. That is a nice read. I’m pretty sure a lot of people will take flossing seriously after reading this. Flossing is an important part of oral hygiene along with brushing your teeth and using mouthwash. But it is important to pick the right dental floss for you and your family. Adults can choose from an array of dental floss, but for young children, it is wise to use waxed floss to protect their gums from bleeding. If you are uncertain about which type of floss is best for you, you can check with your dentist or dental hygienist for recommendations.

    (Nannie Livingstone)