As we enjoy the holiday season, we are reminded that a new year is fast approaching. We begin thinking of resolutions we will make in the new year, such as eating healthier or exercising more regularly – actions that are sure to improve our health and well being. This year, I urge you to add one more resolution to your list, one that will not only improve your dental health, but can also improve your overall wellness – flossing!
Flossing is an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums and should be done daily. Cleaning between your teeth with floss can help prevent cavities and gum disease by removing plaque that often accumulates there. Plaque contains bacteria that feed on leftover food and sugar in your mouth. When this happens, it releases an acid that weakens the adjacent enamel causing cavities. If plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar (or calculus) which collects along and below the gum line causing gum disease. Once tarter forms, only your dentist or hygienist can remove it. Also, many medical studies have shown a link between gum disease and heart disease. We now we believe that if excessive oral bacteria enter the bloodstream, it can lead to atherosclerosis, so removal of this bacteria from your teeth and gums is important for the health of your arteries as well!
Using the proper technique when flossing is critical because simply snapping the floss between the teeth does not remove much plaque. Begin by breaking off about 18 inches of floss and winding most of it around one of your middle fingers. Wind the remaining floss around your opposite middle finger and then hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers. Guide the floss gently between your teeth, and when the floss reaches the gum line, curve the floss into a C shape against the side of one tooth. While maintaining this C shape, slide the floss into the space between the tooth and gum and gently rub the side of the tooth with up and down motions going under the gums. Curve the floss into a C around the adjacent tooth and repeat the motion. Repeat this process on every tooth in your mouth including the back side of the very last tooth in each corner of your mouth.
Starting and maintaining a new habit can be difficult. Though flossing may be uncomfortable and your gums may bleed a bit when you first begin, stick with it! The discomfort and bleeding should ease within a week or two, and your teeth, gums and arteries will be happier and healthier thanks to your effort!
This article was written by Dr. Kiristina Chandler and originally appeared in the December issue of EAST COBBER, on page 9. Click here to view the digital edition.