After 20 years as a Periodontist, I have heard a lot of reasons / excuses why some people wont floss their teeth:
Cant hold the floss
Don’t think it is necessary
It makes my gums bleed
The list goes on. Flossing is important because tooth brushing alone will not clean in between the teeth. Its no secret that most gum disease starts in between the teeth for that reason. For people who refuse to floss, using toothpicks is almost as effective, but flossing is preferred.
Gingivitis – gum disease, is one of the most common diseases known to man. It is an inflammation of the Gingiva. Bleeding from brushing or flossing is a sign of gingivitis. Unfortunately a common misnomer of the lay person is that bleeding from brushing or flossing is normal because it is so common. But this is incorrect, if you have this condition you should seek help from your dental professional. Proper tooth brushing and flossing technique will prevent gingivitis and can cure it. While most people readily brush their teeth only a small percentage engage in flossing.
With proper technique, once a day is adequate for most people to floss their teeth. With that in mind, I have come up with an easy solution that many of my patients have adopted to become regular flossers. The solution is to get a mirror that can be used in the shower, and floss while in the shower. There is usually some down time while conditioning or whatever that allows a few minutes to floss. Flossing in the shower mitigates a lot of checks on the list above. Pain from flossing can result from gingivitis or improper technique. Proper technique is beyond the scope of this blog but you should allow the floss to move passively under the gum until you meet resistance. When gingivitis is present your gums may bleed initially but the bleeding will usually subside as the gums begin to get healthy. This will take about 7 to 10 days with daily use. If it doesn’t resolve in that time frame seek a dental professional for a consultation.
Developing the dexterity to floss can be cumbersome but easily mastered with a little practice. It usually takes a couple of weeks to develop the dexterity so don’t give up. Floss holders or flossing swords, are typically not that effective because they don’t hold the tension in the floss, but its better than nothing if dexterity is an issue.
Smiling at the shower water or using a water pick is not a substitute for flossing – I know what you are thinking. The water pick is useful for removing food particles but will not dislodge bacterial plaque from the tooth surface like a toothbrush or dental floss.
I admit that flossing is not an easy habit to get into but it is critical for optimal dental health. It takes some practice to develop the dexterity to floss but this is an easy obstacle to overcome with a little practice. Bleeding and mild discomfort from flossing is likely initially but should resolve within a couple of weeks of flossing, seek professional help if it doesn’t. The benefits of flossing are life lasting!