Flossing – your #1 defense in minimizing interdental decay!!!
The question your dental professional probably asks you at every dental visit –are you flossing?
The reality is that 85-90% of Canadians have gingivitis, which is directly related to poor oral hygiene, and the lack of flossing. Also, toothbrushes cannot completely remove plaque and other debris that gets lodged between teeth, and thus the lack of flossing also causes interdental decay.
What many people do not realize is that there are several alternatives to the traditional method of flossing – which tends to be the primary deterrent to flossing. While there are alternative methods to flossing, I will begin with the guidelines for the effective traditional flossing technique.
Guidelines For Effective Traditional Flossing
1. Using approximately 18 inches of floss and holding hands 5 inches apart, pinch the floss with your middle finger and thumb and wind the floss around your fingers until there is 2 inches between both hands
2. Carefully glide the floss between the teeth and hold the floss snug around the tooth in a c-shape
3. Carefully glide the floss under the gingiva (gums) until you feel some resistance
4. Using an up and down motion you will remove any debris caught between the teeth
5. Using a clean piece of floss, use steps 1-4 on each tooth surface
Other Floss Aids
Floss handles – All floss handles have a handle, which enables easier dexterity as the fingers do not complete the action of flossing. Some floss handles are disposable and are meant for one time usage and there are some where only the floss is removed and should as such be cleaned thoroughly after use. The proper technique for use of floss handles mimics the traditional technique – the floss is inserted between the teeth, and the floss is pulled in the same ‘c-shape’ and in an up and down motion, manoeuvre the floss beneath the gingiva to remove debris.
Interdental Brushes – These brushes generally have a small handle, with a cylindrical/cone shaped brush on the end. It is meant to be placed in between the teeth to remove debris, or into the sulcus (vertically under the gingiva) to help remove debris trapped in deep periodontal pockets. While this method is effective, you should consult your dental professional and seek the advice as to what size/shape interdental brush is most appropriate for your mouth.
Floss threaders – You have braces, a lingual permanent wire, or a bridge – how do you floss with these obstacles? Floss threaders are small lassoes that have a pointed tip. Take 12 inches of floss and insert the floss halfway into the loop of the threader and bend the floss. Using the pointed tip, insert the threader adjacent to the wire of your braces/lingual retainer between the teeth, or beneath your bridge and pull the floss through so you can effectively floss beneath the gums and between the teeth, as you would in the traditional method.
Waterpik – The Waterpik is the most universal method of flossing and considered to be the best form – NO FLOSS IS USED! The Waterpik is an electronic device with a pointed tip and a housing that resembles an electric toothbrush. Within the Waterpik is a reservoir where water is filled (or whichever antibacterial rinse you use regularly), and once powered on and placed between the teeth, acts like a power hose, blasting any plaque or debris out from within the sulcus of the tooth and between the teeth. The addition of the antibacterial rinse allows for better elimination of bacteria within the mouth, and gives you fresh breath.
Whichever method of flossing you find is best for yourself, please remember that flossing is crucial to your oral health, and should be done every single time you brush your teeth.
Rule of thumb – you wouldn’t wash your whole body in the shower and leave out your hair, would you? It is an essential step to personal hygiene. Flossing is like washing your hair, it is essential to your oral hygiene!