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The following article was published in Your Health Magazine. Our mission is to empower people to live healthier.
Christine Hedblom, RDH, BSDH
Do I Really Need To Floss?
Michael King DDS (Mira Dental Care)

Do I Really Need To Floss?

In an effort to keep your teeth and gums healthy, you've probably heard your dentist or hygienist remind you to brush at least twice a day and floss nightly. The latter is most often neglected. One of the most common answers to how often someone is flossing, is “only when I need to”, which indirectly means every night, though it's usually not the case.

A very common misconception about flossing is that because it can often times cause the gums to bleed, and become sensitive, many people want to simply avoid it. Doing so can actually increase the severity of gum disease. When the gums bleed, nine times out of ten, it's as a result of bacterial infection present; gingivitis.

What most people don't realize is that within seven minutes of eating or drinking anything, the tiny bacteria from the food/drink particles aggregate together and begin to form a sticky film all over the oral cavity. Within about an hour or so that microscopic layer of bacteria begins to form plaque. Plaque is the thicker, white material that can be seen with the naked eye, and has an appearance similar to that of “bread crumbs stuck between the teeth”.

Over time, and as that plaque sits on the enamel and gum tissue it begins to mineralize, or harden. If left long enough, it can actually become as solid as a rock. This new formation is termed tartar, you've probably heard the following on commercials “helps fight tartar”, that's all it is, just hard plaque, which has been there a while.

Brushing and flossing do an excellent job at removing the sticky film from your teeth and gums, as well as taking off plaque. The bristles of the toothbrush and the material composition of the floss are not strong enough to remove mineralized plaque, tartar.

Your dental hygienists' instruments have blades and cutting edges, which are specifically designed to remove tartar from above and beneath the gum line. If you do notice your gums bleeding during flossing, it's very important to note that the only way to stop the bleeding is complete bacterial removal. The more you floss, the more bacteria will be removed from under the gums, and the faster your gums will return to a healthy condition.

One 'psychological trick' that has been proven to be successful in oral hygiene is the following floss your teeth first, then brush second; vs. brushing followed by flossing. The reason being, if one brushes first, usually they feel as though their teeth are pretty clean, and are more likely to avoid flossing thoroughly. However, if one were to floss first, they may feel like the spaces in between their teeth are pretty clean, but they'll be sure to brush afterwards.

In summary, 'you don't need to floss or brush all of your teeth, just the ones you want to keep.'

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