Flossing is an important part of getting a healthy smile and keeping cavities and gum disease away. Yet, it is entirely possible to floss the wrong way – and damage your teeth in the process. Below, we cover why flossing is important, and a few common flossing mistakes.
Brushing Only Does So Much
Flossing removes plaque buildup in the places where toothbrushes can’t reach – between teeth. Brushing alone only covers about 1/3 of the total tooth surface area in your mouth, which leaves a lot of space for plaque – and cavities – to thrive. Flossing helps fix this by removing food and other debris in between your teeth that causes plaque accumulation. Plaque accumulation leads to oral disease and cavities. Flossing helps completely clean your mouth so that you avoid oral disease.
4 Frequent Flossing Mistakes
1 – Flossing Too Often
If you floss too often, you risk damaging your gum tissue and prolonging gum sensitivity. To clean properly without hurting your gums, floss once per day, right after brushing. We suggest flossing right before bed, since it provides ample time for flossing.
2 – Moving Too Quickly
If you move quickly from tooth to tooth, then you risk not fully cleaning the tartar buildup on your teeth. Remember: flossing cleans debris from between your teeth, but also helps remove a thin, damaging layer of plaque that can lead to cavities. We suggest spending about 10 seconds flossing each side of your teeth.
3 – Missing the Whole Tooth
A lot of people only floss one side of each of their teeth – focusing on the gaps between teeth as singular spaces to be cleaned. Again, flossing fights plaque buildup on teeth, so focus on flossing each side of your tooth below the gum line.
4 – Stopping for Bleeding Gums
If you haven’t flossed in a while, you may bleed a bit when you begin flossing again, and many people stop flossing at the sight of blood. Bleeding gums often indicates oral disease, which is caused by plaque and bacteria buildup – exactly what flossing helps to prevent! In order to fight oral disease, you actually need to stick to flossing. Eventually, your gums will become less swollen and no longer bleed.
Quick Flossing Tips
It’s never too late to begin flossing. Here’s a basic guide to flossing your children’s teeth:
- Begin flossing your children’s teeth when any two teeth touch.
2. Use about 12-18 inches of dental floss. If that is too difficult, try using flossing tools like soft flossing picks.
3. Use wide, flat dental tape to floss your children’s teeth. The width of the floss helps with the larger spaces in children’s teeth.
4. Be gentle when flossing children’s teeth, and avoid applying too much pressure on their gums.
5. Floss both sides of the teeth, and make sure to gently dip beneath the gum lime.
For more detailed flossing pointers, check out this handy flossing guide provided by the ADA.
Flossing Helps Fight Cavities and Gum Disease
A full flossing routine should include cleaning teeth below the gum line, where dental plaque can go unseen and unreached by toothbrushes. If left untreated, plaque buildup near the root of teeth can lead to gingivitis and tooth loss. Bleeding gums when brushing or flossing are often an early sign of gum disease. People who regularly brush and floss their teeth suffer from gum disease and tooth decay far less than those that do not.
If your child has tender, swollen gums that bleed when they brush or floss, then it’s time to schedule an appointment and evaluate their oral health. Click here to use our pediatric dentist locator, and find a dentist in your neighborhood today.