Flossing your teeth is more important to your well-being than even brushing. So why do so many of us find reasons not to do it?
We’ve got excuses, but dentists have simple answers for them all.
Excuse No. 1: Food Never Gets Stuck In My Teeth
The main purpose of flossing isn’t to remove food from the teeth. It’s to get rid of plaque. Busting out the floss every day prevents gum disease and tooth loss. Everybody gets plaque, and it can only be removed by flossing or a deep cleaning from your dentist.
Excuse No. 2: I Don’t Know How to Floss
It's “the most difficult personal grooming activity there is,” says Samuel B. Low, DDS, past president of the American Association of Periodontology. But it’s one of the most important to learn.
Use these tips to floss correctly:
- Use 18 inches of floss. Wrap most of it around the middle finger of one hand, the rest around your other middle finger.
- Grasp the string tightly between your thumb and forefinger, and use a rubbing motion to guide it between teeth.
- When the floss reaches the gum line, form a C to follow the shape of the tooth.
- Hold the strand firmly against the tooth, and move it gently up and down.
- Repeat with the other tooth, and then repeat the entire process with the rest of your teeth.
- Use fresh sections of floss as you go.
Don’t forget the back of your last molars. “By far, most gum disease and most decay occurs in the back teeth,” Low says.
Excuse No. 3: I’m Not Coordinated Enough to Floss
If you have trouble reaching the back of your mouth, ask your dentist about:
- Plastic, disposable, Y-shaped flossers that allow for extra reach
- Small, round brushes
- Pointed, rubber tips
- Wooden or plastic pics (called interdental cleaners)
A child will need your help to floss until he’s about 11 years old. Kids should start to floss as soon as they have two teeth that touch.