Preventing dental disease is a big focus in our practice and while gum disease affects almost everyone it’s actually very easy to control. Daily mechanical cleaning, like brushing, keeps the bacteria that cause gum disease from invading our bodies through the tissue around our teeth. As a Dentist, flossing is something that almost no one asks me about and yet I talk about it every day. Multiple times a day, actually. What do I say? Well, like the title says, I tell folks “you don’t have to floss BUT you do need to clean between your teeth everyday”.
Flossing is a great tool but, it is the rare person who likes doing it. I know I don’t. First, let’s go over the basic technique – you wrap the floss around your fingers so most of it is on one finger and a couple of turns are on the other finger and your fingers are close together (about an inch apart), wiggle it back and forth between the teeth until it is below where the teeth touch, then you press it against one of the teeth and slide it under the gums (yes, you need to clean your gums also and many people miss that part), bring it back to the top of the gums, press it against the other tooth and slide it under the gums on the other side, then you wiggle back out the top again. Get to some clean floss by unwrapping it from the finger with a lot of floss and wrapping it onto the other, move to the next set of teeth and repeat. Takes some effort and dexterity. Plus, if you’re a gagger, like me, getting two fingers in your mouth can be a trial. My teeth are pretty tight too, so they tend to feel sore after flossing. Plus, wrapping it around my fingers makes lines in them and they turn blue – a small and temporary thing but vexing none the less.
What if I told you that flossing IS NOT the only way to get the job done? Dental heresy right? Well it’s cleaning 360 degrees around the tooth everyday that matters not the tool. I have used an oral irrigator (Water Pik would be a familiar brand), that hooks up to my shower, for years. Before that I used a special brush that was cut to a point and fit between my teeth. I haven’t flossed in years and years but I clean between my teeth everyday so I have healthy teeth and gums.
Find a Cleaning Device You Like Then Use It Daily
I have my patients check out the dental section of their favorite store, look over all the cleaning tools that are meant to go between the teeth and use whatever appeals to them. Let’s be honest, NO ONE finds flossing appealing! Last time I looked at what was available, there were various types of floss pics, plastic toothpicks, various flosses (waxed, unwaxed, flavored, Teflon coated, etc.), and some tiny brushes. Anyway, if you can slide or push it between the teeth and under the gums and you think you’ll use it every day, then you’re golden. Go forth and clean between.