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Why Flossing Is a Must, Not a Maybe

Did you know that according to U.S. News & World Report, about 30 percent of people age 30 and older never floss their teeth? They claim to have never flossed, which is surprising and worrisome, as they are probably not insisting their family members floss either. About 30 percent more floss sometimes, with more women than men flossing regularly.

Flossing daily is a must for controlling plaque buildup between teeth where toothbrushes can’t reach. When you don’t floss, you are only cleaning 60 to 70 percent of your teeth’s surface, leaving them vulnerable to decay-causing bacteria. Regularly removing plaque will reduce your risk of developing tooth decay, gingivitis and periodontal disease. Plaque contains bacteria that creates an acid that will eat away tooth enamel, causing cavities. The bacteria will also irritate and inflame gums and cause serious infections if not treated. Flossing will also help keep your breath fresh by removing food particles trapped between your teeth. A regular routine of flossing daily, along with a twice-daily brush for two minutes at a time, will help you avoid unplanned dental visits.

Periodontal (gum) disease can also affect your general health. Bacteria from your mouth can spread the infection through your bloodstream. Studies have suggested gum disease can make it more difficult for women to conceive and it can cause pregnancy complications, such as low birth weight. Unchecked periodontal disease also increases a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and respiratory infections if they breathe the bacteria in their lungs. Diabetics with gum disease can have a harder time controlling their blood sugar.

Kids Need to Floss Just as Much as Adults

You should start flossing your child’s baby teeth as soon as the teeth touch each other, which can be as early as age two and as late as age six. You’ll have to do it for them until they gain enough manual dexterity to do it themselves, which is usually around age eight. While gum disease isn’t usually a problem for young children, cavities are. You want to do everything you can to help your child avoid tooth decay so they don’t have to have a cavity filled. Starting early will get them into a habit that can benefit them the rest of their life.

Fun Ways to Get Kids to Floss

Kids don’t usually like flossing, but like everything else that is good for them, you have to make it as fun as possible to encourage them.

  1. Floss your kid’s teeth at the same time you floss yours. Children love to imitate their parents and do things they perceive grownups do. If kids don’t see their parents flossing, they may feel it isn’t important. Some children view it as a punishment for them getting more cavities than adults. Flossing and brushing together is also a good way to bond with your child.
  2. Get an app like the free Brush DJ that times children’s brushing and flossing. Developed by a dentist, the app lets you set reminders to brush or floss and it’s highly customizable. There are many fun, free apps available online.
  3. For a more low-tech approach, get a book from the library that introduces kids to flossing. Most books also cover toothbrushing as well. YouTube also has plenty of videos about flossing that are both educational and fun for kids to watch.
  4. Let your child choose their floss, along with their toothbrush and toothpaste with fun characters and flavors. As long as the product has the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance, it is effective and safe. Try dental picks for your child instead, it will be easier for you and them. You can find princess items, cars, dinosaurs and more.
  5. Reward your child for flossing every day. Put a chart in the bathroom and give them a star for each day they brush twice and floss once. Once they have completed an entire week or month, give your child a small reward. You can also offer daily rewards if this works better for your child. Each night they floss, you can let them watch a favorite TV show or video or read them a beloved bedtime story.

How to Floss with Traditional String Floss

String dental floss is the most popular option among consumers. To use it correctly:

  1. Cut off about 18 to 20 inches of floss.
  2. Wrap the ends of the floss around the pointer finger of each hand. Only put a small amount on one finger as this is where you will wrap the dirty floss.
  3. Curve the floss into a C shape and glide it up and down the insides of each tooth. Use your thumbs or pointer fingers to guide the floss.
  4. Use a new section of floss for each tooth so you don’t spread plaque throughout your mouth. Rinse well when finished.

If you don’t like flossing with nylon dental floss, or find it difficult, you have alternatives that are equally effective at removing food particles and other debris from between your teeth. Hand-held flossers, which you might choose for your child, can be used for adults too. Interdental brushes, which are small, straight brushes used to clean between your teeth are also easy to use if you have limited manual dexterity. If you have an oral appliance, like metal braces or a tooth bridge, your dentist may suggest an air or water flosser. What’s important is that you find a method of cleaning between your teeth that is comfortable and easy to use so you will use it every day.

If you floss every day, it will eventually become a healthy habit that will help you keep your dental health in top condition. If you have concerns or questions regarding flossing, call us at Ballston Dental Arts for expert advice.

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