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Why Flossing Is a Must, Not a Maybe

More than a large percentage of Americans lie to their dentist about how often they floss. Why? Because they admit they would rather clean a toilet or sit in traffic than floss their teeth. The good news is that flossing isn’t painful, and it only takes two or three minutes. You only have to do it once a day and it provides a host of benefits for a little bit of work.

Flossing, along with brushing teeth correctly, keeps dental plaque from building up on your teeth. If you don’t floss, you’re only cleaning about 70 percent of the surface of your teeth, maybe even less if we consider the spaces in between the teeth. Toothbrushes can’t reach in between teeth to remove plaque and food particles, leaving the teeth vulnerable to decay and infection.

The acids in plaque destroy tooth enamel, causing cavities. Plaque also can cause gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease. Untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease, a more destructive form of gum disease. Leaving food particles between your teeth will allow them to rot, causing chronic bad breath and irritating your gums.

Periodontal disease is linked to a number of health issues. Studies show the bacteria in periodontal disease can increase an individual’s risk of developing a stroke or heart disease. Plaque from gum disease is like plaque in the arteries, it can harden them and reduce blood flow. It also makes it harder for diabetics to control their blood sugar. If a person inhales the bacteria into their lungs, it can cause respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia. Periodontal disease can also lead to pregnancy complications, including low birth weight and premature births. For men, periodontitis can lead to erectile dysfunction and increase their risk of developing certain types of cancers.

Kids Should Floss Too

When Your child has two teeth that touch each other, you need to teach them about flossing. This can happen anytime after age two, but they won’t be able to floss themselves. You will have to do it for them. Most kids don’t have the motor skills to floss until they are seven or eight. Flossing is essential in helping to prevent cavities. Even though your child has baby teeth that will fall out eventually, you want to protect them, so they remain healthy and pain-free until adult teeth replace them. Baby teeth don’t have the same strong enamel as permanent teeth, so decay can spread quickly, especially when it starts between teeth.

How to Make Flossing More Fun for Your Child

Make flossing a family activity. Show your kids you value flossing and they will see it as something they should do too. Kids like to mimic their parents. If you don’t show them you floss too, they will view flossing as a form of punishment reserved for children. Besides. flossing with your kids will help you get back in the habit of flossing daily if you’ve been lax.

  1. Buy dental floss picks meant for kids, as they are easier for kids to handle. You can let them pick out their own dental hygiene supplies. Picking their own products, with their own favorite flavors and characters gives your child control of the process. Make sure to select products featuring the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance for safety and to ensure the products work as promised.
  2. Offer small rewards for flossing. A chart in the bathroom with stars for each day your child flosses can motivate them to earn a small prize whenever they reach a certain number of stars. Some parents find their children do better with a daily reward, such as choosing their favorite bedtime story each evening that they floss or watching a favorite TV program.
  3. Let your child watch one of the YouTube videos about flossing meant for kids. There are entertaining explainer videos for young kids that will encourage them to floss. There are also books that explain flossing available at most local libraries.
  4. Play your child’s favorite song while they floss or you floss their teeth. Music will make the process faster and more enjoyable for them.

How to Floss as Effectively as a Dentist

Floss your teeth before brushing according to The American Association of Orthodontists. After you brush your teeth, spit out excess toothpaste, but don’t rinse. The fluoride will sink in your teeth, and if the spaces between your teeth are free of plaque, they will receive more protection. If you prefer to floss after you brush your teeth, be sure to rinse your mouth to remove the debris from between the teeth.

If you want to floss with string floss, follow these simple steps from the American Dental Association to make sure you remove plaque from between your teeth:

  1. Take about 18 to 20 inches of floss and wind each end around the index finger of each hand. You can also use a different finger if it feels more comfortable.
  2. Grip the floss using your thumbs and index fingers and gently glide it between your teeth. Go up and down between your teeth, cleaning the side of each tooth. Gently clean under the gumline too, without jabbing the floss in your gums.
  3. Use a clean section of the floss for each tooth. Don’t forget to do the back of your last molar.
  4. Rinse afterward. This will remove any bits of food particles left in your mouth.

String dental floss isn’t your only option. If you have difficulty flossing with string floss, try dental picks. They have a plastic handle and come threaded with floss already. You can floss with one hand if you need to. Interdental brushes are another alternative that are just as effective as traditional floss for removing plaque and food particles. There is also super floss, meant for people with braces or dental bridges. Air- or water-powered flossing machines are also highly effective, especially if you wear an oral appliance. Whatever you choose, make sure your dentist or dental hygienist knows so he or she can tell if it’s working well for you.

If you need help or have flossing questions, contact us at The Dental Center of Indiana. We want to see you floss daily and maintain your dental health. We can also help you discover a flossing alternative if you are unhappy with using traditional nylon floss.

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