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Posted on: May 14, 2021
Why Flossing Is a Must, Not a Maybe
At times, it may seem too difficult or too time-consuming to floss your teeth. However, failing to perform this dental hygiene task can result in serious issues with tooth decay and bad breath. Brushing after every meal and flossing each night can remove the plaque and bacteria that are responsible for most cavities and the dangerous problem of gum disease. In fact, flossing regularly is a necessary part of a proper dental health routine as any dentist will tell you. You don’t want to miss out on flossing. Luckily, we’ve put together some tips for flossing correctly and for encouraging young children to floss. Because, let’s face it, if adults don’t want to floss, imagine how kids feel about it.
How Flossing Fights Against Plaque and Tartar
Plaque forms when bacteria combine with the food remnants on your teeth and gums to create a sticky film that sticks to the surfaces of your teeth. Over time, plaque attacks the enamel that covers teeth, which results in tooth decay, cavities, and gum irritation. Plaque can also harden to become tartar, which is a crusty coating that can collect between teeth and around the gumline. Teeth cleaning appointments are the only sure way to remove tartar. Trust the dental professionals when they say, you don’t want to get to this stage. Unremoved plaque and tartar create the conditions for the proliferation of gum disease.
Gum disease begins as gingivitis, which is a mild inflammation of the gums that results from exposure to bacteria and plaque. Gingivitis can cause pain, redness and bleeding of the gums. If not treated promptly by a qualified dentist, gingivitis usually progresses to become periodontal disease, which is also referred to as gum disease. In later stages, gum disease can cause significant receding of the gums and damage to the connective tissues inside your mouth. This leads to the loosening and eventual loss of your natural teeth. Bad breath is another common side effect of periodontal disease.
Most people are unaware that gum disease is also linked to other systemic diseases. While more research is needed to determine exactly why this is, most researchers believe that it has to do with the inflammation caused by bacteria which creates gum disease. If you want to do your best to avoid cardiovascular diseases, pneumonia and other systemic issues, take up flossing! By removing the plaque and bacteria in your mouth daily, you’ll also set yourself up for good overall health.
Flossing for Kids
It’s a common misconception that your children do not need to floss until their permanent teeth arrive. In fact, beginning regular dental care now, when they are young, is one of the best ways to help them enjoy a lifetime of brighter smiles. Our dental team recommends that you begin brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first baby tooth erupts through the gums. Flossing can begin when two teeth are close enough together to need this process. The goal is to keep your child’s teeth as healthy as possible during childhood and adolescence.
How to Get Your Kids to Floss
As dental professionals with families, we understand that it can be difficult to get your children to brush and floss regularly. It’s a challenge to get them to take regular baths let alone focus on tooth care. To help you encourage your children to floss and start developing good dental habits as early as possible, consider using some of the helpful strategies listed below.
- Showing your children how to brush and floss and, if space permits, making these activities a family affair can often provide motivation for your children to take on the task of caring for their teeth. By demonstrating that flossing and brushing are important to you as parents, you can often promote a greater understanding of these activities and their importance for your children. You might even try to recruit some of their favorite aunts and uncles!
- Consider giving children a small reward each time they complete their dental hygiene routine without asking. Just make sure the reward is related to healthy behaviors, so steer clear of excess sweets or candies.
- Create a flossing chart! A flossing chart with stickers or marks that show when a child has completed a task can be encouraging to see. It’s also fun for kids to get stickers.
- Buy child-sized tools that come in bright colors. If you’re going to be asking your child to floss, they might as well start to do it in style. Choosing dental tools that are properly sized for younger children can make the activity easier as well.
- Make it fun and exciting with games, music or apps that create stories and activities around flossing. Flossing doesn’t have to be boring or something to dread, especially for children.
- Give positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement of good behaviors has been shown to have a much greater effect on children than punishment for their failures.
Either way, just make sure you are continuing to encourage your children to floss and leading by example as it’s important for both adults and children.
Challenges and Techniques for Proper Flossing
Good news! The American Dental Hygienists Association reports that there are only four simple steps you need to follow in order to floss properly. In general, you should use the following steps to accomplish this dental task:
- Wrap about 18 inches of floss around your thumbs and forefingers.
- Use your fingers to guide the floss into the gaps between teeth.
- Glide your floss up and down in a gentle motion, making sure to get under the gumline and all sides of each tooth.
- Use a new section of dental floss for each pass between teeth.
If you have difficulty with this process, your dentist can help you with recommendations for alternative ways to floss your teeth. For example, some of our patients lack the manual dexterity to floss their teeth following the four steps outlined above. In this case, we might recommend an electric flosser or a pre-threaded flosser. Both work just as well, but make the task much easier for some people.