Visits to the dentist are never pleasant; the prodding and drilling makes the experience even more terrifying, but for one to avoid all this and save themselves from the far dreaded visits, proper care of their teeth is inevitable.
When one talks about dental care, brushing quickly jumps to their mind, however, a much ignored yet equally important facet is flossing. We all know how important it is to brush our teeth, but brushing alone is not good enough as the tooth brush cannot reach some areas, and that’s where flossing comes in.
Flossing is a tooth cleaning technique where one uses a small piece of thread-like material, called floss, to clean between the teeth and around the gum line.
Dr Epimake Kayiranga, a dentist at University Teaching Hospital of Kigali, says that flossing once a day is a vital part in the prevention of tooth decay and gum disease.
The good in flossing
When one doesn’t floss, more than a third of their tooth surfaces are not cleaned effectively, which in the end can cause dental cavities or even bad breath.
“Flossing is one of the ways of cleaning teeth and it’s a good way to complement the normal brushing. Teeth need to be flossed using a dental floss to remove the remaining debris between the teeth because the tooth brush doesn’t have accessibility to penetrate into interdental or between the teeth,” Dr Kayiranga explains.
“Flossing is important because it removes plaques and food particles from in between the teeth and the gum line.
These are places your toothbrush really can’t reach. I would go as far to say flossing is just as important as brushing, although it’s fine to do it once a day,” he adds.
By using a dental floss, one prevents interdental cavities and maintains good oral hygiene.
Alla Wheeler, an associate professor of the Dental Hygiene Programme at the New York University School of Dentistry, says patients don’t think that flossing does anything, but it does about 40% of the work required to remove sticky bacteria or plaque, from teeth.
“Plaque generates acid, which can cause cavities, irritate the gums and lead to gum disease. Each tooth has five surfaces. If you don’t floss, you are leaving at least two of the surfaces unclean,” Wheeler explains.
Flossing might also be an overlooked fountain of youth, but gum disease can ruin the youthful aesthetics of your smile by eating away at the gums and teeth. It also attacks the bones that support your teeth and the lower third of your face. People who preserve the height of that bone by flossing look better as they age, Wheeler adds.
How the flossing is done
When starting to floss, wrap the ends of an 18-inch to 24-inch section of floss around the middle fingers.
Hold the floss between the thumbs and forefingers of both hands, use the thumbs to floss the upper teeth, and then use the index finger to floss the bottom teeth.
Gently slide the floss between the teeth, it doesn’t matter which tooth one starts with as long as they cover every tooth before they finish. Slide the floss gently between the tooth and the gum line.
Instead of being too forceful, flossing should be done carefully, or one can increase the chances of bleeding or hurting their gums.
The floss should be moved gently in a “C” motion when it makes contact with the gums, then use a gentle up and down motion to clean the area. Repeat the process between each tooth.
One should not forget the backs of the rear molars as gum disease and tooth decay frequently occur on the back teeth. This can be a little bit harder to carry on the flossing there but it shouldn’t be neglected because it is a crucial part of flossing.
Unwind new floss from one hand to the other as one goes on with the flossing so that a fresh piece of floss is used.
When the process is done, rinse the mouth out with mouthwash or water as this can help to remove any stray particles that were nearly removed from the gums, or which were able to be removed but accidentally were left in the mouth.