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4 Reasons Why Flossing is Incredibly Important

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Every time you visit the dentist for a checkup, there’s one question you’re almost certain to hear: “Have you been flossing regularly?” For a lot of patients, the answer isn’t always yes. Many people make a point of brushing their teeth twice a day, as the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends, but fewer people follow the recommendation to floss at least once a day.

What many of these non-flossers don’t realize is that this step plays an important role in dental health. Unlike a toothbrush, which cleans the tops and outer surfaces of the teeth and gums, floss is an interdental cleaner– it’s designed specifically to clean the tight spaces between the teeth and the gap between the base of the teeth and the gums. These are places that a toothbrush can’t reach. And while antimicrobial mouthwash can kill the bacteria that form plaque, it can’t remove the stubborn tartar and bits of food that can lodge in these places.

An increasing body of evidence suggests that proper dental care — including regular flossing — can do more than keep your smile pretty and healthy. A healthy mouth can also help prevent much more serious diseases, some of which can be life threatening. But if you’re still not convinced that you should add flossing to your daily routine, we’ve got five examples to make the case that flossing is extremely important, starting on the next page.

Flossing and Brushing Are More Effective Than Brushing Alone

If you’re like a lot of people, your first response to your dentist’s flossing recommendation may be “I brush my teeth, so I’m fine.” While brushing your teeth twice a day will go a long way toward maintaining oral health, you’re not getting the optimal cleaning if you leave the floss unused in the back of your medicine cabinet.

A toothbrush works by physically removing plaque — a sticky, bacteria-laden film — from your teeth with its soft bristles. Toothpaste enhances the effect of the toothbrush, and kinds that contain fluoride help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth. But brushing has one big drawback: A toothbrush’s bristles can’t adequately clean between the teeth or under the gums.

That’s where floss comes in. It’s a tool specifically made to remove plaque from the tight spaces between the teeth and under the gums. The ADA suggests that flossing before you brush also helps make brushing more effective: With less plaque caught between your teeth, the fluoride in toothpaste can get to more parts of your mouth. Think of floss and a toothbrush as a detail paintbrush and paint roller, respectively. You could paint your living room walls with just one of the tools, but using them together will provide a much more satisfactory result.

FLOSSING PROTECTS YOUR GUMS TOO!

If you’re like a lot of people, your first response to your dentist’s flossing recommendation may be “I brush my teeth, so I’m fine.” While brushing your teeth twice a day will go a long way toward maintaining oral health, you’re not getting the optimal cleaning if you leave the floss unused in the back of your medicine cabinet.

A toothbrush works by physically removing plaque — a sticky, bacteria-laden film — from your teeth with its soft bristles. Toothpaste enhances the effect of the toothbrush, and kinds that contain fluoride help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth. But brushing has one big drawback: A toothbrush’s bristles can’t adequately clean between the teeth or under the gums.

That’s where floss comes in. It’s a tool specifically made to remove plaque from the tight spaces between the teeth and under the gums. The ADA suggests that flossing before you brush also helps make brushing more effective: With less plaque caught between your teeth, the fluoride in toothpaste can get to more parts of your mouth. Think of floss and a toothbrush as a detail paintbrush and paint roller, respectively. You could paint your living room walls with just one of the tools, but using them together will provide a much more satisfactory result.

FLOSSING CAN SAVE YOU MONEY

Tooth and gum disease can have effects that go far beyond discolored teeth, discomfort or bad breath. Extensive research has shown that the bacteria that flourish in an unhealthy mouth can harm the rest of the body, leading to heart disease, diabetes and respiratory illness. This is such a significant issue that, in 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began calling for public health initiatives to address oral health as a step toward addressing these potentially life-threatening systemic diseases: conditions that affect multiple organs and body systems.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and more than 25 million Americans have diabetes, so if periodontal disease— disease of the teeth, gums and mouth — contribute to these systemic diseases, then a tool that helps improve oral health can play a major role in improving public health. Flossing only takes a few minutes every day, and adds little to the cost of toothpaste, toothbrushes and mouthwash. It’s a small, simple step that can have huge implications for your long-term health.

FLOSSING PREVENTS TARTAR BUILDUP

Few parts of a regular dental visit are as uncomfortable as the scraping the dentist or hygienist must do to remove tartar. Tartar is a hard buildup of plaque that forms around the gum line. Once it’s there, it can’t be removed without professional help. But thanks to floss, health-conscious individuals have a powerful tool to fight this stubborn problem.

Flossing allows you to remove the plaque that causes tartar while it’s in its early form: sticky, but soft and pliable. Since plaque doesn’t harden into tartar until it’s been undisturbed for a period of time, regular flossing can keep buildup from happening.

A key to successfully fighting tartar is to combine flossing with brushing and possibly an ADA-approved mouthwash. Floss can remove the tartar from around the gums, but it’s not able to strengthen tooth enamel like fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash can. Studies suggest that combining these tools delivers a one-two punch of physical plaque removal (flossing and brushing) and chemical cleaning (toothpaste and mouthwash).