Ask Dr. Parker: Why Is It Important to Floss Daily?

January 13, 2016

A few minutes after you eat sugary or carbohydrate-rich foods, bacteria start to demineralize your dental enamel (outer layer of the tooth). Demineralization means the acidic condition caused by sugar leaches calcium and other important minerals from your teeth dentin and enamel. Bacteria responsible for a host of oral diseases thrive on common dietary sugars such as lactose, glucose, and sucrose. Because these sugars erode your dental enamel so quickly, it is critical for maintaining good oral health that you brush twice a day and floss at least once a day to prevent tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease (gingivitis).

Why Should I Floss Daily?

The main purpose of flossing is to remove food particles and bacteria-rich biofilm stuck between your teeth that brushing can’t remove. Dental floss is string-like and thin enough to slide easily between teeth that are not abnormally crowded or crooked. Although unwaxed, waxed or monofilament dental floss is available, studies have revealed that it doesn’t make a difference if dental floss is waxed or unwaxed — both kinds work well to clean in-between your teeth.

What Is the Correct Flossing Method?

Here are five tips for how to floss your teeth correctly:

  • Wind about 18 or 19 inches of dental floss around the middle fingers of both your hands. Pinch the strand of floss between your index fingers and thumbs, leaving one or two inches between those two fingers. Guide the direction of dental floss using your thumbs when flossing your upper teeth.
  • Use your index fingers to direct dental floss properly when you are flossing your lower teeth.
  • Glide (don’t pull) floss between your teeth in a zigzag motion. Do not snap or pull floss upward when it is between teeth.
  • Floss teeth gently and thoroughly, making sure to use clean dental floss each time you move on to another pair of teeth.
  • Discard used floss. Never try to “clean” old floss for reuse. Once used, dental floss loses its strength and remains coated with oral bacteria that negates the purpose of flossing.

Is Using a Water Pik Better Than Using Dental Floss?

Water piks, or oral irrigators, are hand-held devices that shoot streams of water at your teeth and gums. Although water piks can help wash food particles off enamel and reduce the risk of gingivitis, they should not be used as substitutes for flossing. The force of the water stream is simply not powerful enough to push microscopic bacteria out from between teeth. Only dental floss can remove debris stuck between your teeth.

Do I Still Need Professional Dental Cleanings If I Floss Regularly?

Preventing tooth decay not only includes brushing and flossing every day but also receiving professional dental cleanings and fluoride treatments every six months. Keeping your dental cleaning appointment minimizes your risk of tooth decay caused by unchecked demineralization while allowing your dentist to check for signs of oral diseases in their early stages.

Don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Parker if you have any concerns about flossing or would like more information about the correct flossing method.

Would you like to share?