Oral hygiene is a critical part of one’s daily life and health. From an early age, we have been told to brush and floss regularly.
Recently, an interesting debate has surfaced regarding the effectiveness of flossing. For many years, dentists have recommended flossing as a prime reason for healthy gums.
Flossing works by removing plaque and bacteria from areas between teeth. Brushing cannot reach these narrow areas, thus requiring another means to achieve such a task.
The bacteria present in plaque are both harmless and harmful. The presence of food debris and plaque may be visibly missed, therefore, daily cleaning will prevent the buildup of acid producing bacteria from causing damage.
Types of Flosses
Floss contains plastic beads, wax, and flavoring agents. These materials aid in giving floss its strength and benefits.
· Regular floss: Known as the string flosses, vary in the amount of wax and type of flavor. The ease of flossing differs with waxed and unwaxed. The waxed flosses move in and out between teeth smoothly.
· Floss picks: Convenient to use with one hand. The general motion of flossing requires hugging the teeth with the floss in an up and down motion. With floss picks, the movement of the floss is restricted by the picks.
· Handle flosser: This device has a longer handle with a grip. Both the floss pick and handle flosser have similar heads. The effectiveness of flossing is limited because of the inability to change the angulation of the floss, unlike regular floss.
· Superfloss: Special flosses designed for bridges, crowns and orthodontic braces. Similar in use to regular floss but the initial method of use differs. The floss is passed underneath the bridges and braces before flossing.
Similar to floss:
· Oral irrigators: A water spray in the form of a pulsating jet stream. The purpose is to remove debris and plaque between teeth. An attachment is placed in a toothbrush type handle. Use the irrigator over the sink to prevent spattering. Place it in a 90-degree angle for 1 -2 minutes, for effective results.
· Interdental brushes: Used strictly for cleaning between teeth. Place the thin, narrow working area of the bristle between teeth and move the brush in an inward and outward direction.
How to use a regular floss
· Take out about 18 inches of floss
· On both ends, wrap the floss around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches to work with.
· With your index fingers or thumbs, slowly tease the floss between your teeth.
· Start to cup the teeth by curving the floss around the side of a tooth and reach under the gum line.
· Begin to gradually move out. The motion is similar to drying your back with a towel.
Benefits of flossing
Plaque that is left untouched can harden resulting in calculus formation, which is unable to be removed from brushing for flossing. Calculus build up can cause gum irritation, swelling, and recession. With scaling and hand instruments, the dental hygienist, will debride the area.
Cavities develop from bacteria found on uncleaned plaque. They feast on sugary substances left uncleaned. Lack of flossing will allow the bacteria to cause acid demineralization of the hard enamel. Decay can result in demineralized areas, requiring a filling with a biocompatible material such as amalgam or composite.
Periodontal disease prevention
Flossing has shown to help in preventing periodontal diseases. However, in areas ignored from cleaning, harmful bacteria can accumulate on plaque, which in turn penetrate deep within the gums. Gingivitis is the first sign of periodontal disease. Patients see bleeding, a tale-tale indication. Through regular cleaning and good oral hygiene, gingivitis can cease.
In more severe cases, chronic periodontal disease can occur from untreated gingivitis. Enlargement of the pockets surrounding the teeth can occur. With a deep cleaning, your gums can return to a naturally tight attachment to the tooth.