Arianna Ritchey, RDH
Flossing: More Than Just a Guilt Trip
As a part of a regular preventive or periodontal maintenance visit with your dental hygienist, the topic of flossing usually comes up. Most people have at least heard of flossing, and while some people floss regularly, most patients I see report flossing less than the ADA recommended once per day. More often, people fall into the categories of flossing “once in a while” or “once in a blue moon.” While some people are embarrassed to admit this to their dental hygienist, the condition and health of your gums reveal a lot about your oral hygiene practices at home without you saying a word. (We can also read minds…just kidding.)
So, if most people have heard about flossing, and are reminded of it semi-annually by their dental hygienist, what is preventing them from actually cleaning between their teeth on a regular basis?
Maybe they don’t realize the impact that flossing has on the health of their gums and prevention of early tooth loss. Maybe it’s difficult for them to manipulate string floss (it’s harder than it looks). Maybe they are super busy (who isn’t?) and can’t find time to track down some floss and use it between their teeth. Maybe they ran out of the sample-size floss their hygienist gave them a their last visit. Maybe it hurts when they floss because their gums are inflamed, so they avoid the pain. Maybe they are really committed and diligent for the first while, and then life gets in the way and they fall out of the habit. All of these are totally understandable reasons, and I’ve been there. (Hygienists are human, too!)
The good news is, your dental hygienist is interested in helping you to keep your mouth and gums healthy, and offers a judgment-free-zone to learn how to properly perform oral hygiene techniques, like flossing, and to help you come up with some ways to integrate flossing into your daily routine. (Floss in the shower, floss while watching the intro to your show on Netflix, floss while on Facebook or scrolling through Pinterest, floss while at a red light on your commute, etc.)
The other awesome thing your dental hygienist does for you, is giving you a clean slate to work with! When your dental hygienist cleans your teeth by removing the plaque and calculus (calcified plaque) from your teeth, they are removing the bacteria that are causing the inflammation, pain, and bleeding in your gums. (Hooray!) Once these irritations are removed, the gums have a chance to heal, and by properly cleaning your teeth at home (brushing and flossing), you can keep them healthy. When the gums are healthy, they don’t hurt, they don’t bleed, they are easier to floss, and you have a faster, easier dental hygiene appointments. (Even when your hygienist is gentle, nobody enjoys being in that chair.)
If you’re still reading, check out this video my former classmates and I produced that demonstrates proper flossing technique and briefly explains why flossing is important. It’s a little cheesy, but definitely educational. Make sure your sound is on, there’s some great instruction and music.
After watching this video and practicing at home, if you’re still having difficulty with string floss, try some other interdental cleaners! Here’s a great article that talks about lots of interdental cleaners and how to use them (scroll about halfway down).
Remember, the best interdental cleaning tool is the one that you actually use consistently; if string floss just isn’t your thing, talk to your hygienist at your next visit, and we’ll be happy to give you some samples to try. Happy flossing!
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