Why is it Important to Floss?

Oral hygiene is an essential factor that is needed for the overall well-being of a person. Healthy teeth make us look and feel good. They enable us to eat and speak properly. Daily maintenance of oral hygiene keeps our teeth as well as mouth clean and free from debris. It prevents bad breath and infections caused by the formation of bacteria inside the mouth.

Brushing teeth twice a day, cleaning the tongue properly, flossing at least once in a day, and washing of mouth whenever necessary are a few methods that will help us to keep our mouth clean and healthy.

Image Credit: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock

What is Flossing?

Flossing can be defined as the process of cleaning between the teeth, and between the teeth and the gum using a thin filament called dental floss. A dental floss is usually made of silk, nylon, or Teflon. They are available both in string and ribbon form and can be slightly waxed, waxed, or un-waxed. For teeth with enough space in between, ribbon floss can be used while for teeth with close contact with each other, string floss is the most effective one.

Is Brushing Not Enough?

Brushing alone cannot help in cleaning the teeth.

The tooth has five surfaces—buccal, occlusal, lingual, mesial, and distal. The brush can reach only three surfaces but not the other two (mesial and distal). These two surfaces will be in close contact with the respective sides of other teeth and so food debris is easily stuck there. Along with this food debris, water and other components, and the bacteria present inside the mouth build up plaque (sticky, film-like substance) around the teeth, both above and below the gums. If this is not removed properly, the hardening of plaque—tartar, is formed.

Effects of Plaque and Tartar

Tartar is a yellow or brown colored hard mineral found above the gum line of the teeth. It is formed by the hardening of plaque. It bonds tightly to the enamel of the teeth, thus paving the way for the development of oral diseases.

Tartar is one of the main causes behind many oral diseases like gingival inflammation and other gum diseases and tooth cavities. If gingivitis is not treated, it leads to periodontal disease (periodontitis), which comprises an inflammation of the gum line and can affect the bone that surrounds and supports our teeth with eventual tooth loss.

It can also cause bad breath. Regular use of dental floss removes plaque, thus preventing these conditions. People who do not floss would be at a higher risk in terms of exposure to bacteria. According to various studies, these gum diseases are a high-risk factor for Alzheimer's and memory issues.

The efficacy of dental floss has not been proven. However, 80% of plaque can be eliminated using proper flossing. Thus, to keep teeth free of all types of infections that can be caused by the accumulation of plaque, adults and children above the age of 10 are advised to floss their teeth at least once a day.

When children move to the adolescence stage, hormones such as progesterone and estrogen increase the circulation of blood to the gums. The sensitivity of the gums will be on the rise and the reaction toward irritation due to plaque or even food particles will be higher. Gums may turn red, swollen, and tender. The risk for periodontal disease also increases; hence, it is imperative to follow a good dental hygiene that includes flossing.

Flossing Orthodontic Appliances

Flossing is a difficult process for people with fixed orthodontic appliances. Such people can use orthodontic floss to ease the removal of dental plaque in between braces, bridges, and wide gaps between teeth.

A water flosser - an equipment that is used as an oral irrigator, which shoots a thin stream of water toward the teeth and the gum line, for removing food debris and plaque, is another option. The stiff end of the superfloss makes it easy to slide it in between the teeth and the orthodontic appliance.

Significance of Floss Holders

Using a floss holder can make the flossing process simpler and easier.

A floss holder is a device that acts as a supplementary tool for flossing. It eases our work of holding the floss between our fingers. It is also known as a “prethread flosser.” It is mostly used by parents or caregivers in helping children and other individuals who need special care in cleaning their teeth. People who are just learning the process of flossing also find it easier to use a holder than using the fingers.

Nondispensable floss holders reduce the expense of flossing compared to traditional flosses. Persons can choose floss holders according to their comfort and interest.

Using ecofriendly dental flosses such as unwaxed or natural wax coated floss with no flavorings has environmental benefits.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jun 21, 2017

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