Don’t Toss the Floss!
You may have seen or heard news stories suggesting that you can forget about flossing, since scientists lack solid evidence that you’ll benefit from cleaning between your teeth with a sturdy string. But many dentists may beg to differ. They’ve seen the teeth and gums of people who floss regularly and those who haven’t. The differences can be striking. Every dentist in the country can look in someone’s mouth and tell whether or not they floss. Red or swollen gums that bleed easily can be a clear sign that flossing and better dental habits are needed.
Researchers have found modest benefits from flossing in small clinical studies. For instance, an analysis of 12 well-controlled studies found that flossing plus tooth brushing reduced mild gum disease, or gingivitis, significantly better than tooth brushing alone. These same studies reported that flossing plus brushing might reduce plaque after 1 or 3 months better than just brushing.
MAKE FLOSSING A DAILY ROUTINE
Talk to your dentist if you have any questions or concerns about your teeth or gums. If flossing is difficult, the dentist may recommend other ways to remove plaque between teeth, such as with a water flosser or interdental cleaners. If you need help learning how to floss, or if you don’t think you’re doing it right, your dentist or hygienist will be happy to show you how.
DAILY CARE FOR TEETH AND GUMS
• Gently brush your teeth on all sides with a soft-bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste. Use small circular motions and short back-and-forth strokes.
• Brush carefully and gently along your gum line.
• Lightly brush your tongue to help keep your mouth clean.
• Clean around your teeth with dental floss. Work the floss gently between the teeth until it reaches the gum line.
• Curve the floss into a C shape against one tooth and slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth. Move the floss up and down. Do this for both sides.
• If you have trouble flossing, a floss holder or other cleaning device may help.
• Rinse after you floss.