Statistics show that 61 percent of Americans say they have used their fingernails to remove food wedged in their teeth, another 21 percent have used cutlery to remove particles and 14 percent have used hair. Only 41 percent of Americans actually incorporate flossing into their daily dental care routine, but how many of them are doing it wrong? Here is a list of common flossing mistakes and how to correct them.
Your Dental Care Routine Isn’t in the Right Order
Most people brush their teeth and follow up with dental floss, but you should actually be doing just the opposite. The Journal of Periodontology published a study that found individuals who flossed before brushing had less plaque than those who brushed first. Brushing after you floss allows the fluoride from toothpaste to remain on your teeth longer and protect them from bacteria and acids from food.
You’re Not Using Enough Floss
Cleaning your back teeth requires an adequate amount of dental floss. Many individuals who don’t start with a good amount of string tend to give up when they’re unable to clear their back teeth of food particles and plaque. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), you should pull 18 inches of floss, wind the ends around your fingers, and gently clean between your teeth.
You Don’t Clean Below the Gum Line
Simply cleaning between your teeth is not enough. Plaque, tartar (hardened plaque) and bacteria exist on the surfaces of your teeth and below the gum line. Carry the string about 2 to 3 millimeters below the gum line as well as over the surfaces of your teeth to remove plaque and bacteria. If you don’t, your efforts to fight gum disease will be futile.
You Don’t Floss Enough
The ADA recommends flossing at least once a day, but some dentists say flossing twice a day is best for fighting tooth decay and gum disease. If you eat three times a day (or more), you pile on more and more debris and bacteria to your dental surfaces, your gum line and the crevices between your teeth. Flossing more frequently will help keep your mouth cleaner and healthier.
Your Timing is Off
Your saliva production slows as you sleep. When you go to bed without flossing, bacteria have ample time to begin breaking down your enamel or causing gum inflammation. Flossing before bed removes plaque and food particles that your teeth have collected, and flossing when you wake up removes the bacteria that has multiplied in your mouth while you slept.
Flossing is a vital component of preventing periodontitis (or gum disease), which has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and more. If you find using dental floss boring, try breaking up the monotony by using a water flosser or flosses with different flavors like strawberry or cupcake. Follow up your session with 2 minutes of brushing with fluoride toothpaste, and your smile will stay healthy and beautiful for many years to come.
About the Author
Dr. Allan Milewski is committed to providing patients of all ages with personalized, high-quality dental care. He earned his dental degree from the Ohio State University College of Dentistry and has served as a clinical instructor at Case Western Reserve University College of Dentistry. Dr. Milewski offers a wide range of dental services, including preventive dentistry, cosmetic treatments and more. If it’s time for your annual exam and cleaning, contact the office at (330) 725-2242 or visit the website to schedule an appointment.