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Dental hygiene basics – The importance of flossing

There are thousands of teeth-bleaching products available for everyone who might be worried that their teeth are starting to lose their white color, but why should one come to a point where teeth-bleaching products are a necessity?

Remember – no teeth-whitening product is a replacement for what is considered a dental care routine – daily flossing.

Yellowed teeth isn’t the only problem a person who doesn’t floss might face, there are others, more serious ones, which, if left untreated, may turn out to be serious.

This blog post should inform you about the benefits of flossing, and the troubles which might befall you should you avoid taking flossing seriously.


Floss basics and history

Dental floss is a cord of thin filaments which are used to remove food and dental plaque from between the teeth. The floss is gently inserted between the teeth and curved against the side of a tooth in a “C” shape, and then gently wiped under the gumline to the tip a few times, repeated between all of the teeth.

It is fairly simple and becomes an instinct-like activity after only a few times of trying it out.

In 1815, Levi Spear Parmly introduced flossing as an efficient way to prevent dental disease. His concepts relating to oral disease causation and prevention influence today’s dental practitioners – it is no wonder why some have dubbed him the apostle of dental hygiene. He recommended that people should clean their teeth using a silk floss, which would not be commercially available until 1882 when the Codman and Shurtleft company started to produce unwaxed silk floss. In 1898, the Johnson & Johnson Corporation received the first patent for dental floss made out of the same silk material used by the doctors for silk stitches.

During the 1940s the price of silk rose and it had a tendency to shred, thus it became replaced with silk. This is credited to Dr. Charles Bass, who is known for making floss an essential part of daily oral hygiene.

Exact date of the first use of dental floss is not known, but researchers have found evidence that floss used to exist as far back as prehistoric times. Grooves from floss and toothpicks have been found in the mouths of prehistoric humans, and it is suggested that twigs were uses as toothpicks and horse hair was used as floss.

Benefits of flossing

Flossing, when combined with toothbrushing, can help prevent halitosis and gum disease. In 2012 a review of trials researchers found “some evidence from twelve studies that flossing in addition to toothbrushing reduces gingivitis compared to toothbrushing alone”.

Floss is designed to clean the tight spaces between the teeth and the gap between the teeth and the gums. Antimicrobial mouthwash can kill the bacteria that form plaque, but it can’t remove the tartar and bits of food lodged between the teeth.

It is a well-known fact that tooth and gum disease can have effects that go far beyond bad breath, yellowed teeth, discomfort and pain. Bacteria that flourish in an unhealthy mouth can lead to hearth disease, respiratory illness and diabetes.

Most of the oral hygiene problems can be avoided with regular flossing, read on to learn more about the benefits of flossing.

  • Bad breath

Bad breath can be an embarrassing problem to have, but flossing can easily improve your breath and make the problems with bad breath a thing of the past. Toothbrush can’t remove all of the food trapped in your teeth, particles of food can get lodged between your teeth and rot, giving off foul, unpleasant odors. Most of the food, when it breaks down, releases sulfurous compounds which create a smell akin to rotten eggs. By flossing every day, you make sure that all of the food particles which cause bad breath don’t stay in your mouth.

  • Cavities

Having to sit with your mouth wide open with a dentist’s drill in your mouth isn’t the most fun thing to do. It can be painful and stressful. One of the most common reasons for being in that stressful situation are cavities. Cavities are decayed areas of teeth. Cavities create tiny holes in the enamel which can develop into deep, painful pits. Cavities occur when all of the bacteria, food particles, acids and saliva come together to create plaque. The acids eat away at your teeth and can cause toothaches, sensitivity to cold or hot, pain and visible holes. By not flossing you are helping the plaque between your teeth form into cavities which are hard to notice. The cavities might even create a hole big enough to reach the center of the tooth containing nerves, and cause extreme, sharp pain.

Be wary of those hard-to-reach places and floss daily to eliminate the possibility of cavities appearing in those places.

  • Gingivitis

Gingivitis can be a horrible thing to suffer through, and it paves the road to periodontal disease, which eats away at the soft tissue and bone in your mouth and may cause tooth loss. Gingivitis appears due to a buildup of plaque along the gum line and it can cause inflammation, soft or tender gums, bad breath and it may cause your gums to bleed more easily. The more plaque you have and the longer it stays lodged between your teeth, the higher the likelihood that it will become tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist. Floss daily and you will lessen the risk of developing gingivitis.

  • Other problems

Research suggests that periodontitis may be linked to high blood sugar, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity and atherosclerosis. We have mentioned earlier that flossing reduces the risk of gingivitis, thus reducing these more serious medical conditions.

It is obvious that flossing not only saves you from the embarrassing bad breath, but it also can reduce and eliminate some more serious problems which might cause you a lot of harm in the long run. Remember to floss daily, don’t make yourself suffer through pain, humiliation and horrible health problems. Just a few minutes a day dedicated to flossing will help you feel better about yourself and turn you into a healthier person overall.

Achieving maximum benefits from flossing (how to use floss properly)

We have already mentioned a few times that daily flossing is highly recommended, but not everyone knows the proper technique which helps use floss efficiently.

To receive maximum benefits from flossing, follow these simple rules:

  • Start with somewhere around 30-40cm (12-16 inches) of floss and wind most of it around each of your middle fingers leaving 2-5cm (1-2 inches) to work with.
  • Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and index fingers and slide it gently up and down between your teeth.
  • Curve the floss in the shape of the letter “C” around the base of each tooth and make sure to go beneath the gumline.
  • Use clean sections of floss as you move from one tooth to the next.
  • Use the same back and forth motion while moving the floss up and away from the teeth

As you can see, it can’t get easier than this, and with practice you will perfect this technique making flossing quick and easy.

What types of floss to use?

There are two types of floss from which to choose:

  • Nylon – Multifilament
  • PTFE – Monofilament

Nylon floss can be waxed or unwaxed and in a multitude of different flavors. This type of floss is composed of many strands of nylon and it may sometimes tear or shred, so be careful when using it under your gums.

PTFE (single filament) floss is more expensive but it slides easily between the teeth and is virtually shred-resistant.

Both types of floss are excellent at removing plaque and debris, when used properly. You should try out which one suits you better and continue using it daily.

Extra tips

By now you know that it is not a question of if you should floss, but more a question of when.

Most of the experts agree that you should floss before you brush because it loosens the food and plaque between the teeth. When food particles and plaque are loose, brushing can sweep them away easily. Waiting to floss after brushing allows particles to settle back into the teeth.

One of the ways you can turn flossing into a daily habit is to stash your floss next to your toothbrush where you can easily see it.

If you are lazy, you will be glad to know that electric and pre-threaded flossers exist. They offer no benefit, but some find it easier to floss with the assist of a tool then to floss “by hand”. In the end, if it will make you floss more often, bu all means, buy something which will assist you with flossing.

If you are noticing that your dental floss breaks easily, you might want to check whether there are any sharp edges or rough surfaces that are a part of a dental crown or filling. If you find any sharp or rough edges, then the time is right to visit a dentist who will replace your flawed or deteriorating restorations.

Don’t forget to floss the back side of the last tooth in your mouth.

Rinse your mouth after flossing.

Ending words

Congratulations! You may call yourself a flossing pro now, we have taught you everything there is to know related to flossing and we hope that we have managed to persuade you to start flossing. Remember, flossing is very important if you are serious about your oral hygiene, it is easy to do and it has a lot of benefits in the long run.

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