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As part of a healthy oral hygiene regime, you should brush your teeth twice a day for about two minutes using a fluoride toothpaste. However, brushing will only reach around 60% of the surfaces of your teeth. It’s therefore also recommended to floss or use an interdental brush every day to help remove plaque and food debris that brushing alone may not clean. But why is flossing or interdental brushing important when caring for your teeth and gums?
Why do I need to floss?
Even if you’re careful when using a regular toothbrush, there are likely to be areas in your mouth that your brush doesn’t reach, including the tight spaces between your teeth. Dental floss is designed to reach these awkward, narrow gaps, helping you to clean your teeth and gums more thoroughly. So, if you’ve ever asked the question – why floss your teeth – here are some important points to bear in mind.
Removing plaque and helping to prevent the build-up of tartar
Regular dental flossing helps to remove plaque, which can be important for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Plaque is a soft, sticky deposit that is continually forming on the surfaces of teeth. Affecting people of all ages, it contains a variety of different types of bacteria. If plaque isn’t removed on a regular basis, it can lead to a range of dental problems. For example, when this substance mixes with the sugar in your mouth from food and drink, it creates acid. In turn, this acid can cause teeth to decay, resulting in holes (or cavities) developing. Although decay can be removed and the affected teeth treated with fillings if cavities are detected in time, if they are left for too long, the decay can progress to the pulp in the centre of the tooth. In these cases, teeth may need to be removed or treated with a root canal procedure.
Also, when left for enough time, plaque hardens and calcifies to produce a substance known as tartar. This is a hard material that can’t be removed with a toothbrush. It’s often easily recognisable because of its yellow or brown colour. Treatment from a dentist or dental hygienist is needed to get rid of tartar from the surface of teeth. Plaque can also cause inflammation of the gums when it sits along the gum line for prolonged periods of time. This inflammation, known as gingivitis, can be painful.
Helping to prevent bad breath
Bad breath can affect your confidence when you’re interacting with other people. Another benefit of regular dental flossing is that it can help to reduce your risk of chronic bad breath (also known as halitosis). When done properly, flossing helps to remove the small food particles that can become stuck around your gums and between your teeth. If these food particles aren’t removed, they start to collect bacteria – and this can lead to bad breath. More generally, by removing food and plaque from your teeth and gums, flossing helps to promote oral health – reducing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. These problems are also associated with bad breath.
Protecting and improving the appearance of teeth
Many of us want to feel confident in our smiles. If you’re keen to make sure that your teeth look their best, flossing can play a role in helping you to achieve this. By removing plaque and food particles, it keeps your teeth cleaner. It also helps to reduce the risk of tartar building up. In these ways, flossing can help to minimise any discolouration, meaning it may make your teeth appear brighter.
Incorporating dental floss into your daily oral care regime
It’s clear that there are a number of potentially significant benefits associated with regular dental flossing. If you’ve not used floss before, or you’ve been inconsistent with interdental cleaning in the past, don’t let this put you off incorporating it into your daily oral care routine now. You may be able to improve the health of your teeth and gums with a suitable floss product.
Dental floss is a soft, thin thread. When you’re using it, simply break off a suitable length of floss (usually around 45 cm is recommended) and wind some of it around one finger of each hand. Hold it tightly between your thumbs and forefingers, leaving a stretch of floss around 2.5cm long. Then use a gentle rocking motion to guide the floss between your teeth. When it reaches your gum line, curve it into a ‘c’ shape around your tooth and gently glide the floss back and forth, moving down as you go. Repeat this process for the gaps between each tooth, and don’t forget the backs of the last teeth. Avoid using an aggressive motion when you’re cleaning, as this could harm your gums.
What if I find regular dental floss difficult to use?
Some people find regular dental floss difficult or uncomfortable to use. They might struggle to reach their back teeth or find it awkward to handle long sections of floss. If this applies to you, don’t be put off interdental cleaning. For the reasons outlined above, cleaning the gaps between your teeth and along your gum line is important for a variety of reasons – and there are alternatives to traditional floss that may suit you better. For example, you might find dental floss picks more convenient. These tools feature a curved end that holds a short section of dental floss in place. At the other end, they have a pick that can be used to remove any larger food particles caught along your gum line or between your teeth. For instance, our Comfort Clean Floss Picks are angled to make it easier to reach back teeth and trouble spots.
Another alternative to traditional dental floss is interdental brushes. These tools have small, tapered, bristled heads and are designed to access the tight gaps between your teeth. Essentially, they serve the same purpose as dental floss in that they remove plaque and clean pieces of food away. You can choose from a variety of different sizes and designs to find ones that suit your specific needs and preferences. Our range includes Easy Brush interdental cleaners that feature a thin, tapered brush specifically designed to clean tight spots.
Whether you go for traditional dental floss, floss picks or interdental brushes, cleaning the hard-to-reach areas of your mouth can be an important part of your oral care regime. Dentists recommend daily interdental cleaning. Taking just a couple of extra minutes a day, this additional cleaning can make a big difference to your oral health.