"If you were stuck on a desert island and a boat could bring only one thing, you'd want it to bring floss."
― Samuel B. Low, DDS
Our teeth undergo changes every day, depending on what we eat and drink. We don't pay attention to what we put them through, especially when we skip oral care at the end of the day. Dentists are like the grim reapers of the dental world, with their sympathetic yet sometimes granitic approach to our carelessness. Who can blame them? Our total disregard towards dental health is alarming, where only a few of us actually perform the teeth-cleaning trinity―flossing, brushing, and gargling (mouthwash). Tongue-cleaning is also considered an important step. Even if this isn't performed, the other three are absolutely crucial for dental upkeep.
The purpose of flossing is to rid the crevices between our teeth of plaque buildup, that eventually turns into tartar if not taken care of sooner. It helps one avoid dental problems like periodontitis, gingivitis, tooth decay, and tooth loss. Yes, we detest visiting the dentist but trust me, they know what they're talking about. We're leaning towards making flossing a habit, but we also want to do it right. Here's a detailed view of the most common flossing mistakes that we tend to make.
Most Common Flossing Mistakes People Make
According to the ADA―American Dental Association―it doesn't matter whether you floss your teeth before or after you brush them. But they do suggest doing it right before you brush, to allow the fluoride in toothpaste to give your mouth a thorough cleaning.
Sliding floss vigorously between teeth.
There's no need to be so violent with something as delicate as your gums. There are two things that can happen―one, over a period of time you'll injure your gums and thus have to suffer from gum disease, and two, gums may recede from the constant blows you land on the spaces between your teeth. Floss must be firmly planted between tight spaces using adequate yet restrained pressure, while sliding the floss back and forth without cutting it into your gums. Bacteria can make themselves comfortable in the tiny openings where your teeth and gums meet―floss must be carefully placed on either side and nudged ever-so-gently, to remove those pesky microbes.
Not flossing regularly as advised.
We have dentists to take us through the disturbing, portend bad news of how our teeth will deteriorate if we continue to abuse them. The asperities of teeth-related troubles are a reality; we have people in our lives who will attest to that fact. Flossing is as important as remembering to eat breakfast in the morning, or applying sunblock before stepping outside. Do you constantly experience food getting stuck between your teeth where you're forced to stick a toothpick or finger in your mouth, to pry it out? Then flossing my friend, must be performed after every meal
. Bacteria are little suckers that don't waste any time to procreate, so do away with wedged food bits post every meal. It is commonly advised that a pocket-sized floss be placed in the areas close to where you eat.
Believing that flossing can be done away with by using mouthwash instead.
Mouthwash cannot replace flossing, no matter what a TV commercial will have you believe. Don't fall for the claims that companies make when it comes to their dental products, since mouthwash is purely a complementary form of oral care. What we mean is that mouthwash should be used as part of one's everyday dental hygiene, but not in place of floss. While mouthwash will certainly make you feel fresh and perky once you're through gargling, the truth is, bacteria and plaque will inescapably snuggle closer to your set of pearly whites.
Forgetting about posterior teeth.
Hello, back there! We don't even want to imagine what kind of microbes are lurking in the back of your oral lair. I know what you're going to say, "It's too far back to reach!", but the truth is, there's a way around this anticipated problem. Are you familiar with an interdental cleaner
? They're mini brushes or specially-designed sticks that help you reach nooks and crannies most efficiently. They're a tad better than flossing and are able to dislodge even the nastiest of bacteria and plaque buildup. Also, the fleshy space that extends beyond the back of your teeth, must be carefully grazed with an interdental cleaner to get rid of bacteria dwellers.
Depending entirely on flossing and not other oral hygiene techniques.
There are many of us who hardly ever brush our teeth. While this is a hard truth to digest, it is nonetheless a widely-known fact. The recommended number of times that one has to brush their teeth is twice daily, followed by flossing, and then wrapped up with mouthwash-gargling. While it's commendable that you floss daily, don't sidestep the act of brushing your teeth. Toothpaste contains fluoride which is important for teeth, to help strengthen and keep them spic-and-span. It splashes generously across one's teeth, making it easier to get rid of hidden nuisances that flossing extracts.
Reusing floss, repeatedly.
Hold up, folks! Floss is meant to be discarded right after you're done flossing, and not tucked back into its container. Not only will reused floss prove ineffectual whilst cleaning because of its frayed texture, but bacteria and plaque that were previously extracted, will be more than happy to return to their oral habitat too. Get rid of used floss after you're done, for fear of inviting trouble. Also, using the same floss section to clean all of your teeth, is highly unacceptable. This can place bacteria and plaque on other areas of your mouth; flossing with the same section will only move them around. Extend the floss to a clean section every time you're done with a tooth.
Not flossing after blood is spotted.
Do you feel faint when you spot a speck or trail of blood? Well, there's no need to panic when you extract a section of floss and notice a little blood. The reason behind the formation of blood can be one of two things―either you're flossing way too hard, or your gums are inflamed and expel a little blood upon friction, which will eventually pass after regular flossing. Gingivitis
is a gum inflammation condition caused by the accumulation of tartar, which will probably need a dentist's intervention for removal. Because blood rushes to the gums once inflamed, the floss cuts into sensitive spots, thus releasing a little blood. We suggest visiting a dentist for an outlined oral hygiene plan that you can religiously follow.
Not flossing around braces and other dental fittings.
Just because your mouth may look like a mini war zone, it doesn't mean you can't maneuver your way around it. Floss threaders
are designed specifically for those who have dental implants and other fittings that make regular flossing tiresome and frustrating to perform. Speak to your dentist or a pharmacist about floss threaders and let them help you with how to use one, should you need assistance. There's no need to shy away from flossing altogether, since alternatives are always available.
Using floss for the sole purpose of freeing food.
Food bits stuck between your teeth should be the least, if not the worst, of your worries. Your biggest concerns are bacteria and plaque, where the latter can be identified by its yellowish appearance. Plaque can stealthily duck into areas you wouldn't normally pay attention to. Plaque disclosing tablets and solutions
are available in pharmacies or a dentist's clinic, that supply a pigment to plaque present in the oral cavity, giving you a full-blown view of what you're dealing with. It clings on to it, making it easier for you to scrape the plaque off. The tablets are chewable and the solution can be applied using a cotton swab or q-tip.
Not flossing for an adequate amount of time.
Flossing requires not just patience, but time. You'll need to spend quality time with your teeth, no kidding! Every gap and concealed nook needs to be minutely inspected for oral cavity trespassers. It can be a little exhausting to keep your mouth wide open while you floss away, but at the end of it, you'll feel great. After you're done flossing, give your mouth a quick gargle using mouthwash to get rid of remnants left behind after flossing. Practice how to floss correctly before you begin, by having a dentist perform it for you before you try it out yourself.
By rectifying the mistakes you make while flossing, you'll avoid falling prey to periodontal troubles that take root from negligent oral care. Bear in mind, that oral hygiene alone may not save you from teeth problems, especially if you smoke, eat sugar-laden foods, or drink excessively. It can corrode teeth over time and lead to problems in spite of how well you take care of them. Minimizing how often you expose your teeth to corrosive elements, will prove beneficial in the long haul.