Living with bacteria is like having a bad roommate, but flossing can keep bacteria under control!
Remember the worst roommate you’ve ever had? The one who listened to terrible music at top volume, had his obnoxious friends over every night, and then left you to clean up the plastic cups and pizza boxes from the kitchen? If you’ve completely covered the bathroom mirror with passive aggressive post-it notes, then you know it’s time—you’ve got to throw the bum out. Even if you traded roommates for rugrats long ago, we think you know what we mean.
You’ve got a bad roommate in your mouth
Now, imagine your mouth is like your apartment. So, who’s that bad roommate? It’s bacteria, and it can cause all kinds of problems, from cavities, to gum disease. However, unlike that good-for-nothing roommate, you can’t get rid of bacteria completely, you have to live with it.
Living healthily with bacteria means daily cleaning. Almost all of our patients are good about brushing everyday, but we find that some of our patients haven’t developed a good flossing habit. But strongly recommend it, because the only way to keep that bad roommate fully under control is to floss once every day.
Like we said, bacteria is the main bad guy when it comes to your teeth. When it comes to bad guys, knowledge is power, so here are a few things to know about how bacteria behaves, and why flossing is so important. Think about these tools as “bacteria kryptonite”—like piling all those plastic cups and pizza boxes on your roommate’s bed while he’s out with his friends.
Why floss every day? Here are the reasons:
It takes about 24 hours for bacteria to start damaging your teeth.
When bacteria find a nice spot somewhere, especially between your teeth where toothbrushes can’t reach, they start to multiply into a “microfilm” of plaque that coats your teeth. As the bacteria grow, they eat sugars leftover on our teeth from food and drinks. When they digest the sugars, they excrete by-products, primarily acids that eat into your teeth. After a while, you get cavities, gum disease, and most importantly, more trips to the dentist.
If you floss everyday, you break up that little party that the bacteria is having in your mouth. That keeps the acidity and the plaque under control, and tooth decay is far less likely to damage your teeth. It’s a bit like cleaning up your roomie’s dirty underwear everyday, but trust us, it’s worth it.
No toothbrush can clean the touchpoints between your teeth. It’s time to accept it.
We all know that cleaning between your teeth is important. The points where your teeth touch one another is actually one of the most vulnerable to cavities, and here’s the hard truth: no toothbrush can clean there. Not even the ones that say they can. Not even the ones with the fancy bristles!
Like learning your mother will not always be there to clean up after you, this is one of those things that we just have to accept. Add it to the list of things that make you a grownup: regular exercise, paying bills, eating more fruits and vegetables, and tucking your shirt into your pants. We’re all for being “young at heart,” but let’s all be grownups when it comes to our teeth, ok?
Flossing doesn’t just improve your dental health, it adds years to your life
It seems like fiction, but it turns out that flossing can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, adding vitality and years to our life. A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine compared dental and insurance records, and found that patients who were treated for gum disease had significantly improved health outcomes when they also had type two diabetes, coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease or stroke. Patients who were pregnant experienced a 70% reduction in hospital visits and health care costs! Compared to untreated gum disease, the the study shows that healthy gums are linked to better health overall.
Most scientists believe that this is because gum disease causes inflammation, which releases harmful bacteria into the bloodstream. This triggers the immune system to constrict the blood vessels, and can even cause blood clots to form. With the immune system in overdrive like this, poor health outcomes are more likely, especially for the elderly or those with other health problems.
Practice makes perfect! As you floss every day, you’ll be a pro in no time!
Develop a good flossing technique, and you’ll be done flossing in about a minute. In case you need a little more help, here’s our favorite video that shows good flossing technique. And if you need more custom help, ask one of our hygienists at your next appointment.
Even if you have limited use of your fingers, there are still ways to floss!
There are a few ways to clean between your teeth besides flossing. Toothpicks work well, of course. (Here’s an interesting article about history of the toothpick.) The same is true of a water pick, a device that jets a stream of water between your teeth, and that we have for sale in the office. But, we still think that flossing every day is best. That’s because there’s no substitute for the scrubbing action of the floss on your teeth. No mouthwash, water jet or toothpick can do that. And that’s why we recommend making it a part of your daily home care routine.
If you have trouble using floss because of arthritis or other issues, we recommend that you use a floss holder. If you explore this option, be sure to get one with a long and sturdy handle. You might even use the “tennis ball” method to build up the handle to make it easier to grip. Talk to one of our hygienists at your next exam about how to use a floss holder. We sell them in the office, so you can go home with one in your pocket.