If you go to the dentist regularly, then you know that there is that moment when the hygienist asks you if you floss and how often. Chances are you probably say yes to the first part of the question, and then make something up for the second part. However, if you are like most people, you probably own a roll of floss and only pull it out when you have something stuck in your teeth.

The thing is, dental floss is more than just a glorified toothpick; dental floss actually plays an important role in your dental health.

Below are several reasons why you should floss regularly.

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Flossing makes your toothbrush more effective.      

Tooth brushes remove plaque from the surface of your teeth and the gum line, but they don’t work very well below the gum line. The toothbrush also can’t get into those tight spaces between your teeth. On the other hand, floss is designed to get into those tight spaces and remove the plaque that your brush would otherwise miss. If you floss before you brush, it can actually make your toothbrush more effective because it will remove the plaque between your teeth and allow your toothbrush to push the toothpaste into those spaces.

Flossing Prevents Gingivitis

Although your toothbrush can’t get under the gum line, particles of food can. Those particles of food can turn into a cement-like substance called tartar, which can lead to gingivitis. Although tartar-control toothpastes help soften the stuff up, they don’t completely eliminate or prevent tartar buildup. Flossing helps remove those little bits of food under the gum line before they become tartar, and before that tartar can become gingivitis or even periodontitis.

Gum disease is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults. While you can certainly find several dentists willing to make you a pair of dentures, or a set of dental implants, you want to avoid tooth loss as much as possible.

Flossing Makes the Trip to the Dentist More Pleasant

Even if you don’t have anything wrong with your teeth, getting a professional cleaning can sometimes be unpleasant and painful. What you might not realize is that flossing can actually make the cleaning part of the dental visit a lot less unpleasant.

  • First, flossing significantly reduces the amount of tartar that you produce, so the hygienist doesn’t have to spend as much time scraping your teeth.
  • Second, stains stick to the plaque and tartar on your teeth. Flossing reduces both, and the less you have the less time the hygienist has to spend polishing your teeth.
  • Finally, even if you don’t floss your teeth, your hygienist will. By flossing your teeth regularly, your gums will be much less sensitive and less likely to hurt or bleed when your hygienist flosses them for you.

Proper Flossing Technique

  • Tear off a piece of floss approximately 15 to 18 inches long;
  • Wrap the floss around the first and second fingers of each hand and pull it taut;
  • Slide the taut piece of floss between your teeth, and curve it around each tooth like the letter “C”;
  • Slide the floss up the tooth to starting below the gum line and moving to the top;
  • Slide the floss back down into the same space and curve it around the adjacent tooth, sliding the floss to the top;
  • Repeat throughout the rest of your mouth.

You can start at the back on one side and work your way to the other side, or you can start in the middle and work your way out. What’s important is that you get both sides of each tooth. It’s also best to floss and rinse before you brush, to clear out any debris that could block the toothpaste from getting between your teeth. Don’t worry if you notice a little blood on the floss, this is just a sign that your gums are irritated. Once you begin flossing regularly, your gums should stop getting irritated.

However, you should consult your dentist if you notice that your gums are still bleeding after several weeks of flossing, or if you notice heavy bleeding or any other problems with your teeth and gums.