We all know we should floss once a day, but few of us do. (Well, ideally we’d floss after every meal, but realistically, we can only expect once a day.) Flossing dislodges food particles trapped between your teeth and under your gums where toothbrushes can’t reach. (Brushing misses up to 40% of plaque—and most of that is what’s hiding in between your teeth!)
At first, flossing is difficult, but with practice, it takes most people only a minute to floss their teeth. Just before bed (or after you’ve finished eating and drinking anything other than water) is the best time to floss. We produce less saliva (spit) while we sleep and we swallow less while asleep. This means that the saliva that is produced can sit against any plaque left on your teeth and harden it into tartar/calculus while you sleep.
If you want to use traditional floss, use about 18 inches of floss each time that you floss so that you can take a clean piece between each tooth. Waxed floss is easier to slide between your teeth and less likely to shred than unwaxed floss. Unwaxed floss will squeak when your teeth are clean and is less likely to leave the feel of a coating behind. Wider (ribbon or tape) style flosses cover a larger surface area and may clean better. They are more comfortable for people to hold and may be less likely to cut your gums. Flavors are a personal choice and do not affect the action of the floss, so if you like flavored flosses, go ahead and buy them. You can see the proper flossing technique at this link: http://www.drjrobb.com/library/7703/HowToFloss.html
Floss picks and floss holders are also options for flossing. Floss picks are disposable and pre-loaded. They are helpful for back teeth and for flossing while you are out-and-about. Floss holders are reusable but you load them with floss or an insert when you are ready to use them, then discard the floss or insert when done. They often provide a longer handle which is helpful to reach the back teeth or for those with more limited hand mobility.
Oral-B has a Hummingbird flosser which vibrates the floss insert to help get it between the teeth and to disrupt the plaque. Another addition to the flossing arsenal is an Air Flosser that uses a puff of air and liquid to disrupt the plaque (but remember that you will need to position this flosser according to manufacturer directions to get the best results.)
Waterpik makes oral irrigators that are now labeled as “water flossers”. These are not meant to replace traditional floss—it’s best to use one in addition to flossing, but in most cases, you will see some improvement even if you use the Waterpik and do not floss.
Remember, you don’t have to floss all your teeth—just the ones you want to keep!
Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist with an office at 1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH 44053. She is taking new patients—call 440-960-1940.