Is Flossing Important?
Maybe you’ve seen the meme where the hygienist asks, “When is the last time you flossed?” And the patient, voice muffled by the hygienist’s hands, answers: “Don’t you remember? You were there!” (If not, here it is for reference:)
We laugh, we nod, we send the meme to friends . . . and still don’t make flossing a priority. According to a PollDaddy.com survey about flossing habits, only 30% answered that flossing is part of their daily ritual. Teens answered, also: only 13% answered with flossing daily, and a whopping 44% for never flossing at all, in a separate Gallup poll. Reuters.com reported a Harris Poll in which some people said they would rather clean a toilet or listen to nails on a chalkboard than floss. So the fact that flossing is easy to skip makes sense – it’s obviously one of the least favorite parts of dental care. Instituting this daily habit may not come as second nature, but flossing is one of the simplest, most effective ways to save your smile, your health, and your wallet.
When you go to the dentist’s office and the hygienist uses tools to scrape your teeth, the purpose is to remove the buildup of plaque (a soft, pliable, sticky coating of bacteria on your teeth) and tartar (plaque undisturbed long enough that it hardens and can’t be removed with normal at-home dental care). You’ll notice the hygienist pays special attention between the teeth and along the gum line of each tooth, for the simple reason that those are the hardest-to-reach places. Toothbrush bristles dislodge most of the plaque from the surface of your teeth, but those in-between places will continue to gather plaque and tartar, even with twice-a-day brushing. Tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease (such as gingivitis) can, in many cases, be prevented by regularly adding the simple act of flossing.
In addition, a buildup of plaque and tartar in the mouth has been linked to increased risk for some cardiovascular diseases. The inflammation that happens in your gums due to poor oral health also affects your arteries, causing hardening that could lead to heart attack or stroke. A person’s gums include a lot of blood vessels, so any bacterial infection in the gums can be transmitted through the body. The more bacteria present in your mouth, the more chance your heart could be affected. Flossing regularly helps to prevent otherwise unnoticed bacteria from taking up long-term residence along your gumline and between your teeth.
Flossing is a low risk (if you haven’t been flossing, it’s likely your gums will bleed or become inflamed at the dentist’s, but those side effects should not last long) and relatively low cost method of preventing higher-risk, higher-cost dental procedures. Having a cavity filled or treating gingivitis is much more costly than picking up a couple packs of floss from the grocery store. Until you get in the flossing habit, give yourself a visual reminder – keep your floss visible and near your toothbrush. Make sure that you’re not sawing the floss between your teeth; gently slide the floss between your teeth and floss up and down to dislodge bacteria and food particles.
Have we elevated flossing to the top of your bucket list? Yeah, I didn’t think so. But there’s a good chance that by adding flossing to your daily dental routine, you’ll have good health and more wealth to put towards those bucket list items – and a fantastic, healthy smile to flash for your photos.
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With over 10 years of dentistry experience in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Larsen Family Dentistry provides personable, quality, and affordable dental care to men and women of all ages. If you're looking for high quality and personal service, you've come to the right place. It is our passion to keep your smile healthy and beautiful.