Oral

Dental Floss

Did you know?

Regular flossing plays a crucial role in your dental hygiene. When you skip flossing, plaque can build up between your teeth and along your gumline. Over time, this can increase your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), interdental cleaners such as floss play a vital role in removing plaque and debris from areas that a toothbrush can’t reach.

Read on to learn more about the key benefits of flossing and how often and when you should floss. If you’re looking for alternatives to floss for interdental cleaning, we have that covered, too.

What are the benefits of flossing?

Digging out a lingering piece of popcorn or removing some leftover spinach from between your teeth feels really good.

But, in addition to helping your teeth and gums look and feel good, flossing also has many other benefits. Let’s look at these benefits in more detail.

1. Gets rid of plaque

Plaque is a colorless sticky film that collects around and between your teeth and along your gumline. Although it’s difficult to see, plaque isn’t something you want lingering in your mouth for very long.

Plaque forms on and around your teeth when bacteria in your mouth mix with starchy or sugary foods and drinks. These bacteria release acids that break down carbohydrates. If you don’t brush your teeth, the bacteria, acids, and carbohydrates can mix together to form a film of plaque on and around your teeth and gumline.

The bacteria in plaque can release acids that attack your tooth enamel. If these acids aren’t removed with brushing and flossing, it can, over time, lead to cavities.

What’s more, a buildup of plaque can harden and turn into tartar, which collects along your gumline. When this happens, you increase the risk of developing gum disease, according to the ADA.

Regular flossing can help remove food particles from around your teeth, as well as plaque that’s built up between your teeth.

2. Reduces the risk of cavities

Tooth decay can result in a cavity, which causes a tiny opening or hole in the hard surface of your teeth known as enamel.

Although this process takes time, the more plaque you have on the enamel of your teeth, the higher your risk of developing a cavity.

Flossing between your teeth at least once a day can help get rid of hidden food particles and plaque buildup, and lower your risk of tooth decay.

3. Helps prevent gum disease

Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease. One of the first signs of gingivitis is inflammation around your gums. Your gums may also bleed when you brush or floss your teeth.

If gingivitis isn’t treated, it can lead to a more serious infection known as periodontitis. This can cause your gums to recede or pull away from your teeth. Your teeth may lose bone support and become loose. If not treated, periodontitis can cause an inflammatory response throughout your body.

Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day can help reduce your risk of gum disease. Professional cleanings done by your dentist every 6 months can also help keep your gums healthy.

4. Reduces bad breath

Bad breath (halitosis) is a common problem. But flossing is one of the tools you can use to keep bad breath away.

When food gets trapped between your teeth, it slowly starts to decay. If you don’t remove the food particles, it can cause you to have foul-smelling breath.

Also, if plaque builds up around or between your teeth and starts eroding your tooth enamel, it can cause cavities and gum disease, which contribute to bad breath.

5. May help your heart health

Good dental hygiene doesn’t only benefit your teeth and gums. It may benefit your heart health, too.

According to a large 2019 study, participants who adhered to a high standard of oral hygiene had a decreased risk of atrial fibrillation and heart failure.

That said, the American Heart AssociationTrusted Source says a connection between oral health and heart health may have more to do with a link between the health of your mouth and the overall health of your body.

Regardless, flossing your teeth is a simple, low-cost way to help boost your oral hygiene as well as your overall health.

How often should you floss and when?

The ADA recommends brushing your teeth for 2 minutes twice a day and flossing at least once a day. Some people prefer to floss during their morning routine, while others like one final cleaning before bed.

It’s generally recommended that you floss your teeth before brushing them. When you floss, you typically loosen food particles and plaque around your teeth. The brushing action then helps to remove the plaque and particles that you’ve removed from your teeth and gum line.

Types of floss

Standard dental floss generally comes in two varieties: waxed and unwaxed. Choosing between the two often comes down to personal preference, especially since the ADA claims there’s no difference between the effectiveness of the two types. If your teeth are closer together or crowded, a wax coating may make it easier to get into those tight spaces.

Floss also comes in tape form, which is broader and flat and works well if you have gaps in your teeth.

Additionally, if you have braces, bridges, or gaps, you may want to try a super floss. This type of floss has a regular floss thread, spongy floss, and a dental floss threader with a stiff end.

If you find traditional floss hard to use, there are some floss alternatives you can try, such as:

These tools allow you to use water, air, or small brushes that are similar to a mascara wand, to clean the sides and between your teeth.

According to the ADA, these are all acceptable tools for removing food and debris from your teeth.

Flossing instructions for Normal Teeth

  1. Break off about 18 to 24 inches of dental floss. To hold the floss correctly, wind most of the floss around both of your middle fingers. Leave only about 1 to 2 inches of floss for your teeth.
  2. Next, hold the floss taut with your thumbs and index fingers.
  3. Place the dental floss in between two teeth. Gently glide the floss up and down, rubbing it against both sides of each tooth. Don’t glide the floss into your gums. This can scratch or bruise your gums.
  4. As the floss reaches your gums, curve the floss at the base of the tooth to form a C shape. This allows the floss to enter the space between your gums and your tooth.
  5. Repeat the steps as you move from tooth to tooth. With each tooth, use a new, clean section of floss.

Flossing instructions for braces

Break off about 18 to 24 inches of waxed dental floss.

Stand in front of a mirror so you can make sure the floss is going where you need it to.

Start by threading the floss between your teeth and the main wire. Twist the loose ends of the floss around your index fingers so you can move the floss around easily.

Press the floss between the two teeth as gently as you can. Then, move the floss up and down along the sides of both teeth.

When working on your top teeth, try to make an upside-down U with the floss. To do this, go up the side of one tooth until you get to the gumline. Then, glide the floss down the side of the other tooth.

Gently remove the floss and carefully unthread it from behind the wire. Avoid popping the floss out of your tooth, as you could dislodge a wire.

Now, move on to the next two teeth, and use the same technique until you’ve flossed between all your teeth.

When should you floss?

Knowing the right time to floss also contributes to good oral health. Some people have a routine of brushing their teeth first and then flossing. However, it’s generally recommended to floss and then brush your teeth.

Flossing helps lift and release food and plaque stuck in between your teeth, while brushing removes these particles from your mouth. If you brush first and floss afterward, food and plaque remain in your mouth until the next time you brush.

The American Dental Association recommends flossing at least once per day and brushing twice per day.

Types of dental floss

Dental floss comes in many varieties. Which type of floss is best for you depends on your preferences, the amount of space in between your teeth, and whether you have braces or bridges.

Some dental floss is easier to use in wider spaces, whereas other types of floss are easier to use in tighter spaces.

Different types of dental floss include:

  • Dental tape. This type of dental floss is broader and flat like a ribbon, making it easier to handle if you have braces, gaps, or large spaces in between your teeth.
  • Standard floss. This is a thin, nylon strand that can fit in between teeth. It comes flavored or unflavored as well as waxed or unwaxed. If your teeth are crowded or closer together, dental floss with a wax coating can make it easier to get in between them.
  • Super flosses. This dental floss threader can work with braces, bridges, and gaps. It has three components: a stiffened end for flossing underneath appliances, spongy floss to clean around your appliances, and regular floss to eliminate plaque underneath your gumline.

Other tools to make flossing easier

In addition to dental tape, waxed floss, and floss threaders, other tools can make flossing easier and faster.

  • One option is to use an electric flosser or a water flosser, which uses water and pressure to remove plaque and food from in between teeth. Both are great options if you have trouble using regular floss. A water flosser is also useful if you have braces. This device can clean in between brackets and wires.
  • Another option is to use disposable floss picks. They’re easy to maneuver and can help you floss hard-to-reach teeth in the back of your mouth.

Final thoughts…

Good oral hygiene involves more than just brushing your teeth. It also involves flossing and knowing how to floss correctly.

Flossing helps remove bacteria, plaque, and food from between your teeth, and it reduces the likelihood of tooth decay and gum disease. Along with regular brushing and flossing, make sure you also schedule regular dental cleanings at least twice a year.

Dental Health

Dental Care for Elderly

Advancing age puts many Elderly at risk for a number of oral health problems, such as:

. Darkened teeth.

Caused, to some extent, by changes in dentin — the bone-like tissue that underlies the tooth enamel — and by a lifetime of consuming stain-causing foods and beverages. Also caused by thinning of the outer enamel layer that lets the darker yellower dentin show through. A darkened tooth or teeth may be a sign of a more serious problem and should be checked by your dentist.

  • Dry mouth.

  Caused by reduced saliva flow, which can be a result of cancer treatments that use radiation to the head and neck area, as well as certain diseases, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, and medication side effects. Many medicines can cause dry mouth.

  • Diminished sense of taste.

 While advancing age impairs the sense of taste, diseases, medications, and dentures can also contribute to this sensory loss.

  • Root decay.

This is caused by exposure of the tooth root to decay-causing acids. The tooth roots become exposed as gum tissue recedes from the tooth. Roots do not have any enamel to protect them and are more prone to decay than the crown part of the tooth.

  • Gum disease.

Caused by plaque and made worse by food left in teeth, use of tobacco products, poor-fitting bridges and dentures, poor diets, and certain diseases, such as anaemia, cancer, and diabetes, this is often a problem for older adults.

  • Tooth loss.

Gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss.

  • Uneven jawbone.

This is caused by tooth and then not replacing missing teeth. This allows the rest of the teeth to drift and shift into open spaces

  • Denture-induced stomatitis.

 Ill-fitting dentures, poor dental hygiene, or a build-up of the fungus Candida albicans cause this condition, which is inflammation of the tissue underlying a denture.

  • Thrush.

Diseases or drugs that affect the immune system can trigger the overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans in the mouth.

Age in and of itself is not a dominant or sole factor in determining oral health. However, certain medical conditions, such as arthritis in the hands and fingers, may make brushing or flossing teeth difficult to impossible to perform. Drugs can also affect oral health and may make a change in your dental treatment necessary.

Oral Hygiene Tips for Seniors

Daily brushing and flossing of natural teeth is essential to keeping them in good oral health. Plaque can build up quickly on the teeth of seniors, especially if oral hygiene is neglected, and lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

To maintain good oral health, it’s important for all individuals — regardless of age — to:

  • Brush at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste
  • Floss at least once a day
  • Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash once or twice a day
  • Visit your dentist on a regular schedule for cleaning and an oral exam
  • Antibacterial mouth rinse can reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease, according to the American Dental Association.

What Seniors Can Expect During a Dental Exam

If you’re a senior headed for a check up, your dentist should conduct a thorough history and dental exam.

 Questions asked during a dental history

  • The approximate date of your last dental visit and reason for the visit
  • If you have noticed any recent changes in your mouth
  • If you have noticed any loose or sensitive teeth
  • If you have noticed any difficulty tasting, chewing, or swallowing
  • If you have any pain, discomfort, sores, or bleeding in your mouth
  • If you have noticed any lumps, bumps, or swellings in your mouth

During an oral exam, your dentist will check the following: your face and neck (for skin discoloration, moles, sores); your bite (for any problems in how the teeth come together while opening and closing your mouth); your jaw (for signs of clicking and popping in the temporomandibular joint); your lymph nodes and salivary glands (for any sign of swelling or lumps); your inner cheeks (for infections, ulcers, traumatic injuries); your tongue and other interior surfaces — floor of the mouth, soft and hard palate, gum tissue (for signs of infection or oral cancer); and your teeth (for decay, condition of fillings, and cracks).

If you wear dentures or other appliances, your dentist will ask a few questions about when you wear your dentures and when you take them out (if removable). They will also look for any irritation or problems in the areas in the mouth that the appliance touches and examine the denture or appliance itself (looking for any worn or broken areas).

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