Is flossing really that important?

dentist CharlottesvilleMany people feel like brushing is all that is needed to keep a clean, healthy mouth. This is a dangerous misconception. If a person skips flossing on a regular basis, he or she will develop an increased risk for periodontal (gum) disease and tooth loss. Oral hygiene, in addition to visiting the dentist for routine checkups and cleanings, is necessary for preventing common oral health conditions.

Why is flossing necessary?

While a toothbrush can clean the biting surfaces and front and back sides of teeth, it cannot reach deep within teeth. Flossing is necessary to clean along the gum line and in between teeth. Bits of food and bacteria can easily collect between teeth. Without flossing, the areas between teeth will develop tartar accumulation as well as the gum line. Tartar buildup is a primary contributor to periodontal disease because it causes an inflammatory response in the gums. As tartar accumulates, the gums pull away (recede) from teeth leaving the roots of teeth exposed to debris and harmful bacteria.

Flossing thoroughly and properly can greatly reduce the risk for gum disease by preventing the accumulation of tartar in between teeth. Floss is thin enough to clean gently without cutting into the gingiva.

How often should I floss?

You should floss once every day. Flossing properly takes a couple minutes. Be sure to purchase floss with the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of approval. As you floss, curve the floss around the base of each tooth and thread it through teeth in back and forth motions to remove debris and bacteria wedged deep within teeth.

What happens if I have blood on my floss or toothbrush?

If you notice bleeding during your oral hygiene routine, you should make an appointment with your dentist for a checkup. Continue brushing and flossing as normal until your appointment. Be sure to floss and brush gently but thoroughly.

Flossing helps prevent periodontal disease, which is a condition that contributes to the majority of tooth loss in adulthood. Untreated gum disease can advance into a progressive condition that may require surgical treatment.