When it comes to your health, flossing your teeth is more important than brushing. So, why do so many of us find reasons not to do it? Dentists say there are simple answers for all our excuses.
Excuse No. 1: Food never gets stuck in my teeth.
You don’t floss so much to remove food from the teeth. You do it to get rid of plaque, the bacterial film that forms between teeth and along your gum line. Doing so daily prevents gum disease and tooth loss. Everyone 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.
Flossing is “the most difficult personal grooming activity there is,” says Samuel B. Low, DDS, a professor at the University of Florida and past president of the American Academy of Periodontology. But it’s one of the most important to learn.
The American Dental Association gives these tips for flossing right:
- 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 using one of these tools:
- 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.