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How Often Should You Floss?

We all know dentists recommend flossing and even know we should be doing it regularly. However, many people don’t floss as much as they should.

So how often should you floss? To get a better sense of that, you need to also understand why it is important, and what happens over time if you don’t. It’s important to know how often to floss, as well as why you need to be flossing that often. This tends to help people make the switch to more regular flossing, as it makes clearer sense, and is not just a rule with no reason.

Key Takeaways

  • Regular flossing is essential for interdental cleaning as it removes plaque, bacteria, and food particles that toothbrushes cannot reach. This reduces the risk of gum disease and tooth decay.
  • Preventing Plaque Build-up and Tartar Formation: Plaque forms continuously and hardens into tartar within 24-48 hours. Regular flossing prevents this build-up, reducing the risk of oral health issues including gum inflammation and gingivitis.
  • The Canadian Dental Association recommends flossing at least once a day, in conjunction with brushing twice a day. People with certain conditions or habits may benefit from flossing twice a day.
  • If prone to quicker plaque build-up, consult with your dentist for personalized recommendations and guidance.
  • Proper flossing technique is just as important as frequency, requiring careful guidance of the floss between teeth and gum line to avoid damage.
  • Several interdental cleaning devices, including pre-threaded flossers, floss picks, and interdental brushes, can make cleaning hard-to-reach areas easier.
  • Regular professional dental cleanings complement at-home oral hygiene habits, improving overall oral health.

    Prevent Gum Disease and Tooth Decay

    Flossing is critical for interdental cleaning, meaning that it cleans the tooth enamel in between teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach. An interdental cleaner, including traditional floss, interdental brushes, dental picks, and others, help by removing plaque, bacteria, and food particles from in between teeth.

    Removing Plaque Build-Up In Between Teeth

    Plaque is a sticky film that forms continuously during the day and as you sleep. Foods high in carbohydrates and simple sugars especially promote rapid plaque growth and increase in plaque bacteria. Plaque is created from the food particles and saliva that mix in your mouth and builds up on teeth. It contains bacteria that leads to tooth decay and gum disease.

    What’s more, plaque starts to harden within 24 hours into tartar; most plaque hardens within 48 hours of formation.

    Over time, it becomes so hard that it needs a dental visit to remove. Tartar is a rough surface, which traps bacteria and causes more oral health concerns, including inflammation of the gums and gingivitis. This can lead to more severe gum disease which has been linked to heart disease, stroke, and other overall health issues.

    Dental floss and other interdental cleaning devices remove plaque build up between teeth to prevent this. The key is to do it regularly enough to maintain a clean mouth before it has a chance to lead to oral health issues.

    woman is flossing her teeth

    Floss Daily At A Minimum

    The Canadian Dental Association recommends flossing at least once a day, in conjunction with brushing twice a day. It is recommended that you floss first to remove food debris before you brush your teeth, to increase the fluoride concentration that reaches the spaces between your teeth.

    If you eat a lot of starchy food, have a medical condition or medication that causes dry mouth, smoke, or have been exposed to head or neck radiation, you may experience more rapid plaque development, and may benefit from flossing twice a day.

    Consult With Your Dentist or Dental Hygienist

    If you suspect you might be prone to quicker plaque build up, ask your dentist for recommendations and guidance.

    How To Floss Properly

    Just as important as how often you floss is how well you floss, so you get the benefits of proper interdental cleaning.

    Take a length of dental floss equal to your arm length and wrap most of it around the middle finger of one hand, and most of the rest around the middle finger of your other hand. Some people prefer to use index fingers.

    Firmly hold the floss between your thumbs and forefingers and carefully guide the floss between your teeth. Don’t saw roughly, use too much pressure, or run it along your gums, which could damage your gum tissue.

    Blonde woman flossing on white background

    Keep the floss tight along the tooth and gently rub the side of the tooth up and down. As the floss reaches your gum line, curve it against the tooth to avoid cutting the gum, and slide the floss gently between the tooth and gum.

    Clean the adjoining tooth, too. Move to a clean piece of dental floss by unwrapping some from the finger that had the majority of the floss, and wrapping some around the finger of the opposite side. Repeat the process for each tooth, and don’t forget the back teeth.

    Interdental Cleaning Devices

    There are several types of interdental cleaning devices that can make it easier to clean those hard-to-reach places. Pre-threaded flossers, floss picks, an interdental cleaner which are tiny brushes that reach in between teeth better, and others can make the job easier. Waxed floss is excellent as it is more gentle for delicate gums as it slides between two teeth easily and between teeth and gums.

    Powered water flossers are good for removing leftover food particles and washing away bacteria along the gum line, but are not as effective as traditional floss for removing plaque.

    Dentist examination and cleaning patient teeth in the office with metal dental pick tool.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How often should I floss my teeth?

    The Canadian Dental Association recommends flossing at least once a day in conjunction with brushing twice a day. However, if you consume a lot of starchy foods, smoke, or have a medical condition that causes dry mouth, you might benefit from flossing twice a day.

    Why is flossing important?

    Flossing is crucial for interdental cleaning, that is, it cleans the tooth enamel in between teeth where a toothbrush can’t reach. It helps in removing plaque, bacteria, and food particles, preventing gum disease and tooth decay.

    What happens if I don’t floss regularly?

    If you don’t floss regularly, plaque builds up and hardens into tartar within 24-48 hours. Over time, it becomes so hard that a dental visit is needed for its removal. Tartar traps bacteria, causing oral health concerns including gum inflammation, gingivitis, and severe gum disease, which may also affect your overall health.

    How should I properly floss my teeth?

    To floss properly, take a length of dental floss equal to your arm length. Hold it between your thumbs and forefingers and guide the floss carefully between your teeth. Keep the floss tight along the tooth and rub the side of the tooth gently. As it reaches your gum line, curve it against the tooth to avoid cutting the gum, and slide the floss gently between the tooth and gum.

    Are there other devices I can use instead of traditional floss for interdental cleaning?

    Yes, there are several types of interdental cleaning devices like pre-threaded flossers, floss picks, interdental brushes, and powered water flossers. While these devices can make it easier to clean hard-to-reach places, traditional floss is considered most effective for removing plaque.

    Get Professional Cleanings

    Stay on top of your teeth, and be sure to have them professionally cleaned by a dental hygienist or dentist.

    Dentist Stoney Creek, located at 184 Hamilton Regional Rd 8 Stoney Creek, ON L8G 1C3, supports the Canadian Dental Association’s guidance. Flossing once daily and brushing twice is key for good oral health. Floss first to clear food debris and enhance fluoride’s effect when brushing.

    If you consume many starchy foods, have a dry mouth, smoke, or have had radiation exposure, consider flossing twice daily. Call us at 905-664-5555 for further advice or to book an appointment.

Dr. Christopher Sims
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