If you have visited a dentist, well, ever, you have almost certainly been reminded of how important it is to floss. Flossing helps reach the areas between and around your teeth that a toothbrush just would not be able to reach. Even if you cannot see anything, there are tiny remnants of food and other bacteria lurking in those hard-to-reach places that will turn into plaque if they are not removed. Despite the fact that achieving optimal oral health is almost impossible without flossing, 50% of Americans simply do not do it. Even if you are one of the 50% who does take the time to floss, there is a pretty good chance you are doing it wrong. Here are some of the more common ways patients floss incorrectly:
They are using an incorrect technique
You want to use about 18 inches of floss. Wrap most of it around the middle finger of just one hand. As the floss becomes dirty, you will wrap it around your other middle finger, while releasing more clean floss from your first hand, sort of like spools.
Holding the floss between the thumb and index finger of each hand, gently guide the floss between each tooth. You should be using a rubbing motion to reach in there; do not just snap the floss down, as this can injure your gums. Once the floss reaches your gum line, wrap it around the tooth so it forms a C-shape. Using up and down motions, move the floss away from the gum as you rub the tooth.
Expect to spend a few seconds on each tooth, flossing up and down, each one a couple of times before you move to the next one. It should take around two minutes to floss your entire mouth.
Remember to continually move on to clean sections of floss. By simply reusing the same piece, you are putting the bacteria and plaque you removed from one tooth on to another.
They only floss to remove food
While removing food is important, it is not the only reason why we floss. The bacteria that will really damage your teeth are not visible, and you will definitely not feel it the way you would a piece of steak or chicken in between your teeth. A proper flossing technique will remove everything: the food you can see, and the bacteria you cannot.
They stop when they bleed
If you are flossing correctly, without using too much pressure, a little blood is not necessarily a bad thing. If you do not floss frequently, you may be suffering from gingivitis, which occurs due to a buildup of plaque. The gums become red and inflamed, as more blood is needed to deal with the buildup. When you remove that plaque via flossing, some of the blood leaks out. If you begin flossing consistently, this should clear up within a couple of days. Believe me, slight bleeding from flossing is much more preferable to the conditions that can arise once plaque turns in to tartar.
They wait until after they brush to floss
Similar to reusing the same piece of floss on each tooth, if you wait until after you brush to floss, you’re leaving a lot of bacteria just sitting around your mouth. Even though it is no longer between your teeth, that bacteria will continue to fester. Floss first, and then brush as you normally would. This will ensure the bacteria is totally removed from your mouth. Additionally, since most people have such a difficult time incorporating flossing into their routine, doing it first and getting it out of the way will help to make it a daily habit.
If you are one of the 50% of people who already flosses, making minor adjustments to ensure you are flossing correctly will be a breeze. Although, if you find yourself on the other side of this coin, what are you waiting for? Putting off taking care of your mouth until your next appointment will only make any problems worse. It takes 21 days to develop a habit. Consider this day 1.