You don’t really need to floss…

Is THIS the best tool you can use?

Is THIS the best tool you can use?

Wait a second…has she lost her mind?  Did a dentist just say I don’t have to floss? Let’s dig a little deeper into that one.

When a patient is sitting in the chair of the dental hygienist, one of the first questions she may ask is “Have you been flossing?”  This question causes irritation, guilt, embarrassment…all for no good reason.  Flossing really does require skill, manual dexterity, determination, dedication…which the huge majority of patients just don’t have when it comes to flossing. In fact, the majority of patients who DO floss on a regular basis (which is small…) are doing it ineffectively!

What does “ineffectively” mean?

Most people who do floss only do so a few times per month. And…they only floss where it’s easy to reach! Which means…the front teeth. So, the back teeth are often neglected.  There’s a saying in the dental world “only floss the ones you want to keep!”

To really take good care of your teeth, it’s important to understand the purpose of floss. First…it removes the food debris from between the teeth. Teeth all have 5 sides…the cheek side, the tongue/palate side, the biting side, and the 2 sides that touch other teeth.  Your toothbrush only cleans 3 sides.  If you like math…that’s only 60% of your tooth! So the floss is meant to sweep food from the area in between where the teeth touch each other. This is the ONLY way that stuff comes off the teeth! Second…it removes sticky plaque from under the gums.  Again, the toothbrush does a decent job of this on the cheek side and tongue/palate side of the teeth, but not at all between the teeth.  So, the floss is meant to scoop out the gunk-filled-with-bacteria from under the gums so it can be rinsed away.

But I REALLY Can’t or Won’t Floss!

Fair enough, you are in the majority. However, we STRONGLY suggest you get that junk off of your teeth somehow…other wise you have a future filled with tooth decay and gum disease. Seriously. A terrific alternative to flossing is a Waterpik!  If your dental hygienist uses a “water machine” to clean your teeth, a Waterpik is a low-tech version of this.  This is a much less technique-sensitive way to get under the gums and between the teeth to get rid of the bacteria and mold sitting there.  That’s right…I said bacteria and mold. Gross…you’ve been leaving that stuff there. This is such an inexpensive investment in your oral health, you can share it with others in your family just by changing the tips. They hardly ever break. Don’t know how to use one? Buy one ( some dental offices sell them at cost, like our office), bring the tip to your dental hygienist, ask her to show you how to use it.

If I do floss…what SHOULD I do?

Ask your dental hygienist how to floss properly!  She’s the pro at this, and you KNOW she loves to talk about the benefits of flossing, so make her day by telling her you want to do better.

You said I didn’t have to floss…

Listen…the most amazing oral care you can have would be a combination of brushing (with a high-quality electric toothbrush like Sonicare), flossing, and Waterpik! But…we reasonably understand that you aren’t going to floss every day, and research has shown that using a Waterpik is at least as good or better than flossing alone! So…give it a try! And we would LOVE to teach you how to Waterpik (or floss) most effectively!

Dr. Andrea Stevens is a cosmetic and family dentist in practice in Kanata, Ontario. If you have dental questions, you can call her at 613-271-7091 or visit her at kanatacosmeticdentist.com Please also feel free to leave comments or questions below, and Dr. Stevens will be happy to answer!