Is Dental Flossing really THAT important?

Did you know that not flossing can shorten your lifespan? And can cause your unborn baby to be delivered prematurely?

In my practice of over 20 years clinical experience, the population that flosses regularly, is around 10%. So, it brings me to one of the most common questions I get asked; “Is flossing my teeth really that important?”

The simple answer… YES!

There’s a little joke in dentistry that goes “You only need to floss the teeth you want to keep…” and whilst it’s a bit of a daft joke, it’s actually very accurate.

When you brush and floss your teeth, you are removing food debris and plaque. Plaque is sticky white or yellow bacteria that grows in your mouth. Plaque is a living organism and it loves to hide where it’s warmest; along the gum line. As well as accumulating in grooves on your enamel, in between your teeth and around ill fitting or failing fillings. As it’s a living bacteria, all living things give off a by-product (waste) and it's that acidic waste that causes bad breath, dental decay and gum disease.

Dental Flossing and General Health

But something that most people don’t realise, is dental plaque can contribute to a massive amount of health problems and even shorten your lifespan! Once dental plaque enters your bloodstream via the tiny blood vessels surrounding the teeth and through your stomach lining, the bacteria can cause smooth muscle contraction. Smooth muscle contraction can contribute to heart attacks, strokes and premature births. In addition to all of that, at least 90% of diseases/illnesses begin in the mouth, increasing the need for a cleaner, healthier mouth. Some studies are even proving that ineffective plaque removal can shorten your lifespan by 6.4 years!!

"Dental flossing has been shown by some studies to increase your lifespan by up to 6.4 years!"

How to Dental Floss

  1. Break off a strand of dental floss, around 30cms in length. Wind most of the floss around your 2 middle fingers, until you get about 1cm of working length

  2. Hold the floss tight in between your thumb and index fingers

  3. Slide the floss in between your teeth. Do this gently to avoid “snapping” the floss into your gums. If your contacts are tight, use a see-saw motion to get the floss through gently.

  4. Gently slide the floss up and down the side of your tooth, slightly bending the floss to the shape of your tooth

  5. Bend the floss in the other direction, so that you are now flossing the adjacent tooth

  6. Pull the floss back down through the contact of your teeth or if the contacts are very tight, or if the floss frays, let go of one end of the floss, and pull it through

  7. Move to the next tooth and repeat all the way around your mouth

When should I floss?

Because flossing removes food, plaque and debris out from in between the teeth, it’s always best to floss your teeth before brushing, so that your toothbrush can brush away any deposits that are sitting on the tooth surfaces after flossing. Most dental professionals encourage flossing every day, but honestly, I’m super happy with my patients if they floss WELL 2-3 times per week. I’d rather take the pressure off my patients and have them do it a few times a week, rather than putting the hard word on them, then they give up.

What are the alternatives to flossing?

There are loads of different interdental aids on the market. I don’t really mind what you use, as long as you're using something in between the teeth, it doesn’t really matter what. If you are missing teeth, have braces or larger gaps in between your teeth, interdental brushes are often the best alternative.

There you have it! Not only can dental flossing prevent stinky breath, bleeding gums and dental decay, you can add years to your life!! So spend that extra minute cleaning in between your teeth each day and you’ll thank us for nagging you every six months when you come for your check ups!

Love you all, Dee