A common question that patients are asked when they visit the dental office is, “How often do you floss your teeth?” Although daily flossing is recommended, most people don’t do it. Some people floss occasionally, and up to a third of North Americans actually lie to their dentist about how often they floss.
Flossing may seem less important or less rewarding because it doesn’t have the immediate benefits of a clean mouth feel and fresh, minty breath. If you don’t floss, however, you are missing more than one third of your tooth surface where your toothbrush cannot reach. If plaque and bacteria are not removed from between the teeth, the plaque hardens into tartar, which can only be removed with professional cleaning. The bacteria between your teeth is also the leading cause of gum disease.
Reasons to Floss
- Flossing stops your gums from bleeding. Bacteria causes inflammation, which causes bleeding when you floss. If you floss regularly, the bleeding will no longer occur.
- Flossing gives you fresher breath. Although your mouth feels fresh after brushing alone, a lot of odour-causing bacteria lives between your teeth.
- Flossing prevents tooth loss. If you don’t remove the bacteria around your gumline, your immune system releases enzymes to destroy the bacteria. These enzymes can damage the bone structure.
- Flossing saves you money. Maintaining healthy teeth through preventative care means spending less money in the long run on restorative treatments.
How to Floss More Often
Since flossing has more long term benefits than immediate rewards, it’s harder to get in the habit of flossing daily. One way to help enforce the habit is to associate it with another part of your routine. If you don’t have time to floss in the morning, keep some floss in your desk at work and make it part of your lunch break. You can floss any time of day and it doesn’t need to be at the same time as when you brush your teeth.
If you really want to motivate yourself to floss, choose a treat that tends to get stuck in your teeth, like popcorn, raspberries, oranges, or corn on the cob – anything that makes you want to floss afterwards. Try this until you start to enjoy flossing and it will become easier to floss regularly.