Floss—or it's Your Loss
During Dental Hygiene Month, Delta Dental stresses the importance of flossing for gum health.
OAK BROOK, Ill. (October 10, 2013) - Anyone who has ever munched on popcorn at a movie has likely experienced that uncomfortable feeling. You know, the one where a kernel gets lodged between your teeth and just won't get unstuck? Fortunately, as the nation's largest dental benefits provider, Delta Dental has an easy solution for that problem: flossing.
Removing obvious food particles is but one minor benefit of flossing. More importantly, flossing is an excellent way to remove plaque and the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease from areas between teeth where a toothbrush can't reach. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, using floss daily results in less bacteria and less gingivitis than brushing alone.1
"Studies have shown that interproximal (between the teeth) brushes are also more effective for reducing plaque between the teeth and reducing inflammation of the gums, namely gingivitis, than brushing alone," said Dr. Bill Kohn, DDS, vice president of dental science and policy for Delta Dental Plans Association.
Kids might remember to brush their teeth every morning and night, but few are as committed to flossing. The 2011 Delta Dental Children's Oral Health Survey found that only 22 percent of parents reported their children flossed daily, and nearly half said their children never floss.3 And one out of ten parents believes that infrequent or poor flossing is the primary inhibitor to their child having excellent oral health.4
As with any hygienic routine, there is a proper way to floss. After wrapping a strand of floss around both middle fingers (or whichever pair feels best), take a very small piece between your thumb and index finger and pull it taut. Insert it in between each pair of teeth by sawing it gently back and forth with downward pressure until it pops below where the teeth contact each other. Pull the floss tight against the side of one tooth and rub the floss gently up and down the side of the tooth, then do the same to the tooth on the other side of the space. Then move on to the next pair of teeth and repeat the process. Try to keep the floss tight against the side of each tooth and move it up and down, not back and forth. Remember to reach the back side of the last tooth in each corner of the mouth.5
Children should start flossing once they have two teeth that touch side-by-side. Dr. Kohn recommends that parents help with flossing until the age of 10 or when the child can demonstrate that they can do a good job on their own. Keep in mind that plaque is always forming on your teeth, so good brushing and flossing has to be a daily routine to ward off dental disease.
"Toothbrushing removes some plaque, but cannot reach in-between the teeth, where gum disease and tooth decay are common," Dr. Kohn said. "Flossing or interproximal brushes can get at most of the rest. For the most effective tooth decay prevention, however, remember to use fluoride toothpaste when you brush."
1American Academy of Periodontology. http://www.perio.org/consumer/flossing08
2Sambunjak D, Nickerson et.al. Flossing for the management of periodontal diseases and dental caries in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 12.
3Morpace Inc. conducted the 2011 Delta Dental Children's Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted by email nationally with 907 primary caregivers of children from birth to age 11. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error is +-3.25 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.
4Morpace Inc. conducted the 2013 Delta Dental Children's Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted nationally via the Internet with 926 primary caregivers of children from birth to age 11. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error is +-3.2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.
5How to Floss. American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/sections/publicResources/pdfs/watch_materials_floss.pdf.