You may have heard it said recently that flossing is overrated, but it’s just not true. Millions of bacteria feed on any particle they can find left on your teeth, and they thrive in the plaque that flossing removes. You may not be able to see the bacteria but they are definitely living there! Brushing your teeth only gets rid of some bacteria. Your toothbrush can’t reach in between your teeth or into the tiny areas. Not flossing means that plaque will eventually become tartar, which is impossible to remove except by a visit to the dentist.
Regular flossing also helps you to stay aware of what’s normal for your mouth, so you can quickly identify anything out of the ordinary, such as swelling, lesions, or redness, which all suggest potentially serious problems.
Only brushing and never flossing can also lead to gum disease and tooth loss. If you are avoiding flossing because your gums bleed, it may be because your gums are unhealthy. Flossing regularly will generally help them bleed less and hurt less.
You can also try out other flossing techniques until you find the one that works best for you. If you have sensitive gums, try a soft floss. If you have braces or dentures, there’s a special floss for that. If you have trouble getting regular floss into certain parts of your mouth, you could try an electric flosser.
Another question some people ask is, “Should I brush or floss first?” Ultimately, it’s really more important that you do both than what order you do them in. Either way, a good flossing, brushing, and rinsing is doing the job it’s meant to do—reducing plaque.
Remember, gum disease can begin at any age, so be sure your kids form good habits early—and it’s never too late to improve your own habits!