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Why Flossing Is a Must, Not a Maybe

The majority of us brush our teeth regularly to keep our teeth healthy and prevent bad breath. Unfortunately, the majority of us don’t floss daily. Brushing only cleans about 70 percent of the teeth’s surfaces, so only about a third of us clean all of the teeth’s surfaces by flossing each day.

Flossing is vital for preventing cavities, gum disease and bad breath. Plaque builds up on teeth every day. Brushing twice daily and flossing once a day keeps plaque from building up on teeth and hardening into a substance called tartar. Tartar is the yellowish, hard buildup that only a dentist or dental hygienist can remove by scraping it off. Plaque contains bacteria which produces an acid that eats away at tooth enamel, causing cavities. Plaque and tartar will also cause gum disease. The mildest form of gum disease is gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums. The disease is treatable and curable. Untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a more advanced form of gum disease that can destroy the support structures holding teeth in place unless the disease is controlled.

Periodontitis can also damage your overall health. The inflammation can travel into your lungs, causing respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia and even COPD. Inflammation from periodontitis can lead to thickened arteries, increasing a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Periodontitis can also complicate diabetes by making it more challenging for diabetics to control their blood sugar. Studies have also linked advanced gum disease to erectile dysfunction, dementia and pregnancy complications. That should be enough to convince you to start flossing!

Do Baby Teeth Need Flossing?

Flossing is the only way to clean between teeth that touch each other. Cleaning the sides of baby teeth is just as important as it is to clean all of the surfaces of permanent teeth. Your child needs his or her baby teeth to stay decay-free to be able to chew and speak clearly. Baby teeth also hold the space for the adult tooth, so if absolutely necessary, dentists will fill cavities in baby teeth to keep them strong and allow the adult teeth emerge in straight. Flossing baby teeth will help prevent cavities between teeth.

Baby teeth are smaller that permanent teeth, but somewhere between age two to six, your child will have two baby teeth close enough to floss. Since kids lack the motor skills to floss until they are older, meaning you will have to floss their teeth for them. If you’re unsure when to begin flossing, please call us at Dental Arts of South Jersey. You can even start flossing your child’s teeth when they have visible spaces between them It’s a good way to introduce flossing in a low stress environment.

Making Flossing More Fun for Kids

Let’s be honest; getting kids to floss isn’t easy. It’s a very important skill to develop if you want to reduce their risk of cavities. To motivate your kids to floss and encourage them to make flossing a lifelong habit:

  1. Kids love to copy what a parent is doing. Make flossing a family affair and lead by example. If you’re not flossing daily, now is the time to get back on track. The family that flosses together will have better dental checkups.
  2. Play a favorite song while your child flosses. Some parents make up songs about flossing to sing to their kids while they floss their teeth, making flossing a bonding experience. Take any kids song, like Row, Row, Row Your Boat, and change the works to talk about flossing.
  3. Kids love rewards. Make a bathroom chart for brushing and flossing, using a sticker for each day they brush twice and floss once. Offer a small weekly reward when they fill in a week with stickers. Avoid using candy or ice cream as a reward; try a coloring book or a small toy to give them something to look forward to.
  4. Buy hand-held flossers. It will be much easier to reach your child’s back teeth, as their mouths are small and adult hands are large. Let your child pick out his or her own at the store, along with their toothbrush and toothpaste. There are fun colors and shapes made specifically for kids. Picking out their own dental hygiene supplies will make your child feel empowered.
  5. Explain the benefits of flossing. Tell younger children that they will get fewer cavities. Older children may be more motivated by the fact that flossing controls bad breath.

Your child’s gums may bleed a little the first few times you floss them. This is normal. If they continue to bleed after one week, please call us.

How and When to Floss

While one professional dental organization may prefer brushing before flossing or vice versa, in reality, the order doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you do it. No matter the order, to floss effectively, follow these steps:

  1. Wrap Floss Around Your Fingers – Cut about 18 to 24 inches of floss and wrap it around the index or middle fingers of each hand. Leave about two inches to form a taut strand.
  2. Guide the Floss – Use your index fingers or thumbs to guide the floss between your teeth, cleaning each side and gently under your gumline.
  3. Avoid Spreading Bacteria – Use a new portion of the floss as you move from tooth to tooth to avoid spreading bacteria. Discard used floss and rinse your mouth.

Traditional nylon floss isn’t right for everyone. If you have arthritis or other manual dexterity issues, the above steps can be difficult. Fortunately, you have other options. Hand-held flossers, pre-threaded with floss make flossing with one hand easy. They are also ideal for flossing children’s teeth since they have small mouths. Small interdental brushes can also be used with one hand. The can remove more plaque than traditional floss according to a recent study published in Dental Health. Water flossers are also a good option, especially for individuals with dental bridges or braces.

If you need help choosing a flossing about that you will stick with daily or how to floss correctly, please call us at Dental Arts of South Jersey.

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