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Why Flossing Is a Must, Not a Maybe

Every day, plaque, a thin, sticky film of bacteria, accumulates on your teeth. The acid this bacteria creates can harm your tooth enamel and gums, causing irritation and decay. If you brush twice a day and floss, you can remove the plaque before it builds up. Brushing alone isn’t enough; if you don’t floss, you are not cleaning a large percentage of the surfaces and spaces between your teeth. Flossing also removes food particles trapped between your teeth that can rot and cause bad breath.

Flossing also helps prevent gingivitis, the mildest form of gum disease. Gingivitis causes your gums to become inflamed and red because plaque and tartar can irritate them. It’s a treatable disease, cured with a dental cleaning and better dental hygiene practices at home. If you ignore gingivitis, it can progress to periodontitis, a serious gum infection that is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults over age 30.

Flossing isn’t just good for your oral health; it can help you maintain better overall physical health. If you develop periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease from not flossing, it will increase your chance of developing cardiovascular diseases and other problems. The bacteria from gum disease can enter your arteries and cause them to harden. Having periodontal disease can also make it more challenging for diabetics to control their blood sugar. Bacteria from gum disease can also lead to memory loss and possibly Alzheimer’s disease. It’s also linked to respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

When Should I Floss My Child’s Teeth?

Whenever your child has two teeth touching each other, usually around age two or two and a half, you should start flossing between them. They make hand-held flossers for kids so you don’t have to hold the floss in your hands. You don’t want your child to get a cavity between their teeth, so flossing is just as vital for children as it is for adults. Kids may not like flossing, but they like it better than getting a cavity filled. Get your child used to flossing early on, and they will see it as a normal part of their dental hygiene routine. You can even start before your child has teeth that abut to help introduce your child to flossing.

Four Fun Ways to Get Kids to Floss

If you’re a parent or caregiver, you’ll appreciate any help getting your child to brush and floss. It’s not easy to make flossing fun, but there are ways to encourage children, including:

  1. Floss your teeth before you floss your child’s teeth. Children like to do adult things and you can tell them they are old enough now to floss. Let them see you make it a daily habit, so they learn to make it a part of their dental hygiene for life. Be a good role model for them.
  2. Make a chart for the bathroom and give your child a star for each day they floss. When they accumulate a certain number of stars, they can claim a small reward, like a coloring book or stickers. Avoid rewards involving sugary foods and drinks.
  3. Use a brushing app. Get them to floss first, then brush. The app lets your child choose an animated character that they can get food for if they brush correctly. It also teaches them about healthy snacks.
  4. Take your child to the store with you to pick out floss sticks. They make all types for children with fun colors and characters. Your child will enjoy using something they picked out themselves. Look for products containing the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.

Make no mistake; it takes persistence, time and a lot of patience to get children into the habit of flossing daily. However, the benefits are so great that it will be worth it.

How to Floss According to the American Dental Association

According to the American Dental Association, there are only a few easy steps you need to do once a day. This should take you about two to three minutes.

  1. Tear off a piece of floss at least 18 inches long. Wrap it around the middle finger of each hand. Wrap most of it around one of your fingers and then wind the used floss around the other finger as you use it. Only keep a little bit of floss free, as you will have more control.
  2. Hold the floss between your thumbs and guide it between your teeth, bending it into a C shape. Be careful not to push the floss into your gums. If the space between your teeth is is tight, use waxed dental floss as it should glide more easily. Use a sawing motion to get the floss between your teeth if you have to, but an up and down motion to clean the sides of your teeth.
  3. Be sure to finish by doing the back sides of your molars.
  4. Discard used floss and rinse your mouth.

You can also tie the floss (the same amount) in a loop and use it in the same way.

A new Orleans dentist, Dr. Parmly, introduced traditional dental floss, made of a waxed silken thread, back in 1815. Today, you have many options. String floss comes in waxed and unwaxed versions and the waxed versions come in different flavors. If your teeth have gaps between them, there is also waxed and unwaxed dental tape, which is wider than traditional floss, and super floss which has a stiff end to clean around oral appliances.

Other options for cleaning between your teeth include hand-held flossers and interdental brushes, both of which are easy to use with one hand. They are equally effective as flossing with nylon floss. Water flossers, which shoot a stream of water between your teeth, are also an ideal option, especially if you have an oral appliance.

Contact us at Dental One Associates of Maryland if you have any questions about flossing or need recommendations for a good product to use to clean between your teeth. We want you to avoid problems by cleaning between your teeth. We want you to find the method that you will stick with and use daily.

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