After brushing every morning and night, you sit confidently in the dentist’s chair. You let the assistant clean and polish your teeth, and you don’t even flinch when the dentist pokes and prods with those curved metal hooks. ‘Do you brush every day?’ she asks. Since your mouth must stay pried open while she works, you grunt the affirmative. ‘Do you floss?’
You think for a bit and can’t remember the last time you flossed. You recall how uncomfortable you felt the last time you did so and how you preferred never to relive the experience.
Of course, you aren’t the only adult to skip this essential oral hygiene step. According to Dr. Christopher Ho, member of the Australian Dental
Association, ‘a lot of Aussies are not brushing and flossing’, and as a result, more patients suffer from gum disease. If you want to keep your teeth and gums healthy, toss the following excuses in the bin and amplify your efforts.
1. I Don’t Know How
If you never learned how to floss as a child, you might feel uncomfortable pulling that unwieldy piece of string through your teeth. But once you’ve learned the basic steps, flossing will seem like a breeze.
1. Pull about 50 centimetres of floss out of the container, and use the cutter attached at the top to snap off the length.
2. Pinch the floss between your index fingers and thumbs, or wrap the excess floss around your index fingers until the string becomes taught. Keep at least 5 centimetres floss between both hands.
3. Slide the string between your teeth. Rest the string on the side of one tooth, and using a slight sawing motion, gradually follow the tooth’s contours toward the gum line.
4. When the floss reaches your gum line, form a C shape with the floss and slide it back down the side of the opposite tooth.
5. Repeat the process with the rest of your teeth and with new sections of floss as you go.
Still don’t feel confident flossing? Ask your dentist to demonstrate the proper technique. He or she will love to show you the best ways to floss even the most difficult spaces.
2. My Gums Bleed
Your gums may bleed for a variety of reasons. For example, if you attack your teeth with the floss rather than gently moving the string through your teeth, you may accidentally cut your gums. Or, if you haven’t flossed for several months (or years), you may develop gingivitis, or gum inflammation.
If left untreated, the bacteria and decay in your mouth causes the gum tissue to become red, swollen and irritated. Blood blisters may even form inside the pockets of gum tissue in your teeth, and whenever you brush or floss, the blisters break open. But Mark S. Wolff, DDS, PhD at the New York University School of Dentistry emphasises, ‘stopping flossing because of bleeding (or pain) is just the opposite of what you should be doing’. If you floss regularly with the right techniques, the bleeding should stop in less than two weeks.
3. I’m Too Busy
When you have to care for several children and manage a busy work schedule, brushing your teeth for two minutes seems like difficult feat. And the additional three to four minutes flossing seems almost too much to ask. But keep in mind that you don’t have to floss in front of a bathroom mirror right before or after you brush your teeth. Instead, tuck your floss in
your pocket or purse and whip it out whenever you see the opportunity. Or you could keep extra floss in your desk at work and clean your teeth after your lunch break. Find a time of day that works best for you!
4. My Teeth Sit Too Close Together
If you have crooked teeth that overlap each other, you may have a harder time flossing than others. But that doesn’t mean you should forgo flossing entirely. Rather, swap your average floss for a waxed or polytetrafluoroethylene floss. These types glide easily between closely spaced teeth. And if those tight spaces make other dental routines difficult, ask your dentist to straighten your teeth and correct your bite through orthodontics.
Have More Excuses?
No matter your reason for skipping the floss in the past, you should set aside a few more minutes each day to improve your oral health. If you don’t feel comfortable flossing, talk to your dentist about your concerns and how to overcome them.