The Importance of Flossing Your Teeth

Do you brush your teeth regularly? Perhaps you wouldn’t think of skipping a brushing. There are many people that brush religiously, yet do not floss. Less than half of Americans floss daily and 10 percent don’t floss at all. Both brushing and flossing are important to your dental health. Flossing helps prevent cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. In today’s blog, your Lake Forest Dentist, Dr. Fondriest, discusses the importance of flossing.

Why Floss?

Brushing is great for the surfaces of your teeth, but it can’t perform interdental cleaning (cleaning between your teeth). Interdental cleaning has been a challenge since the ancient days. Dental floss and toothpick grooves have been found by anthropologists in the teeth of prehistoric man.  It wasn’t until Levi Spear Parmly, a New Orleans dentist, suggested that his patients clean between their teeth with silk thread, that the concept of dental floss was born in 1815. At that point flossing was basically to remove stubborn food particles from between your teeth. It didn’t become a mainstay of dental hygiene until the 1980s when the clinical benefits of flossing were realized. Interdental flossing is the only way to remove disease causing plaque from between your teeth and between your teeth and gums. Flossing can help prevent tooth decay, gingivitis, and periodontal disease.

Tooth Decay: Flossing can help prevent tooth decay by removing the plaque biofilm from between your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth, although mostly harmless, include the harmful bacterial strain mutans streptococcus. This harmful bacteria feeds on sugars, starches, and other food particles that remain in your mouth after eating and drinking. As the bacteria metabolize its food source, a clear, sticky substance is produced, a plaque biofilm. While brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day removes this plaque biofilm from the surfaces of your teeth, your toothbrush bristles cannot effectively reach in between your teeth or in between your gums and teeth to remove the plaque that accumulates there. Flossing daily is the only way to effectively remove plaque from these areas. We brush our teeth twice a day and floss daily because the process of decay due to plaque takes place in under 24 hours. Therefore, the longer plaque remains on your teeth the more damage it causes.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease develops in stages. The first stage is gingivitis which if left untreated can progress to periodontitis. Periodontal disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults.

Gingivitis: Plaque not only contributes to decay, it causes gingivitis. Gingivitis can be avoided and treated. It is caused by the plaque biofilm that forms around and under your gums. The bacteria infested plaque irritates the gingival tissue–hence gingivitis–causing tenderness, swelling, redness, and bleeding. If it is not removed, the sticky plaque biofilm calcifies into tartar, or calculus. It can continue to spread under your gums causing the gum tissue to recede or pull away from your teeth. The root of the tooth is then exposed to more sugars, starches, and therefore more bacterial plaque, leading to decay. Daily flossing is the only way to remove plaque that causes gingivitis. Once the plaque hardens into tartar, it can only be removed with a prophylaxis–a professional dental cleaning.

Periodontitis: Periodontitis is the stage of severe periodontal disease. Periodontitis is when the bacteria infested calculus begins to dissolve the exposed tooth root and progress to the supporting jaw bone. The disintegration of the root and supporting bone results in tooth loss.

Because periodontal disease has been linked to diabetes,  heart attacks, strokes, lung infections and Alzheimer’s, studies have shown that flossing to prevent periodontal disease can help prevent other chronic diseases and help maintain good overall health.

About Flossing

The reason we floss is not only to remove food from between your teeth, the major goal is to remove plaque. When flossing to remove plaque:

  • Scrape the floss back and forth and up and down against the sides of each tooth.
  • Floss in between each and every tooth including between your molars furthest back.
  • Use slight pressure, not so much to damage your gums, but enough to scrape away plaque.
  • Floss both sides of each tooth (56 sides).
  • Spend a few seconds on each side scraping up and down a few times on each.
  • It’s important to floss even if your gums bleed.

About Your Lake Forest Dentist:

Aside from providing expert family and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from all Chicago surrounding communities. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.