Since the beginning of time, people have looked for ways to get the little pieces of food stuck between their teeth out. Our ancestors likely used pointed sticks to clean their teeth. Fortunately, we don’t have to sharpen a stick to get whatever is in between our teeth out. In the early 1800s, silk thread dental floss was invented. According to Oral B, “The New Jersey-based J&J [Johnson and Johnson] took out a patent for dental floss in 1898 that was made from the same silk material used by doctors for silk stitches.”
Since dental floss was invented, it has evolved to make flossing easier. Unfortunately, even with these innovations, many people still neglect to floss regularly or floss with unsafe items. Check out the following survey results regarding Americans flossing habits from the American Dental Association:
- Only 16% of people floss at least once a day.
- 20% of people said they only floss when they felt they needed to (such as when they were aware something was stuck between their teeth).
- 8% of people say they never floss.
- 55% of people say they don’t floss because it is too time-consuming; 16% say it is too painful; and 9% say it is gross.
- 45% of people admitted to lying to their dentist about how often they floss.
According to the ADA’s report, “The survey of 1,005 adults, released in October, found that most Americans say they have used the following items to remove food between teeth: fingernails (61 percent), folder paper or cards (40 percent), cutlery (21 percent), safety pins (14 percent) and strands of hair (7 percent).”
While we applaud the survey respondent’s honesty, the numbers are alarming. Flossing is not simply something your Houston dentist recommends just because they can. Flossing is a necessary part of your oral care routine. If you struggle with flossing for whatever reason, we hope what you learn today will make it easier for you.
Why Flossing is Important
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), “Interdental cleaners such as floss are an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums. Cleaning between teeth removes plaque that can lead to cavities or gum disease from the areas where a toothbrush can’t reach.” Moreover, flossing helps prevent gum disease and heart disease. It also helps prevent cavities and bad breath. These are all reasons why your Houston dentist recommends that you floss at least once daily.
Common Excuses for Why People Don’t Floss and Their Rebuttals
At our Houston dental office, we hear all sorts of excuses for why people don’t floss as often as they should (or why they never floss). Have you ever used one of the following excuses?
- It takes too much time. Yes, it takes time to floss your teeth. However, if you include flossing in your regular oral care routine when you brush, you will have already built the time to floss into your day. Moreover, you can floss anytime throughout the day. Keep floss in your car console or your desk drawer.
- It hurts. If it hurts when you floss, this is even more reason for you to floss! Painful gums are a sign of gingivitis and gum disease. By flossing for a few days, your pain should decrease and eventually disappear. If not, then you need to make a Houston dental appointment ASAP.
- I don’t get food stuck between my teeth. Yes, you do. But let’s pretend you don’t. Even if you don’t get food stuck between your teeth, you floss to remove plaque from between your teeth. It is plaque, the bacteria film that spreads between teeth and along your gums, that causes problems.
- My teeth are too close together. Thankfully, there are tools available today that make it easier for people whose teeth are close together to floss. For example, you can try waxed floss or floss threaders.
- I am too uncoordinated. Some people believe they are too uncoordinated to floss or they are unable to open their mouths at the right angle to work the floss. There are tools available that can help you, such as a floss holder.
Flossing Alternatives You Should Try
If flossing is a struggle for you, there are alternatives you should try before you give up on flossing completely. Remember, flossing is important to your overall health. When shopping for alternatives or interdental cleaners, look for the A.D.A. Seal of Acceptance.
- Oral irrigators. Oral irrigators are electronic tools that shoot tiny streams of water (also known as a water flosser). The tiny (but powerful) stream of water can clean plaque from between teeth. Additionally, there are air flossers available that use a similar technique.
- Interdental brushes. Interdental brushes are small, textured brushes designed for cleaning small spaces and are easier to move around the teeth than floss.
- Floss picks. Floss picks are disposable tools that have a small plastic handle and a short thread of floss. You hold the handle and put the floss piece between your teeth. A study by the Journal of Clinical Dentistry found, “Both products removed statistically significant plaque when assessed versus pre-treatment levels. […] This analysis confirmed that the Floss Pick product was “at least as good as” the standard floss product for plaque removal.” Many people find the floss picks easier to use – especially for children.
- Tape floss. Dental tape is broader and flatter than standard dental floss. Some people find it easier to use – especially people with large spaces between their teeth. The New York Times claims, “Some people find that a wide, flat, tape-style floss (rather than a strand of fibers woven together) is more comfortable and easier to slide between tightly spaced teeth.”
No matter how much you brush, you still need to floss, so choose the alternative you are most comfortable with that will help you remove the plaque from between your teeth.
Do you have flossing concerns? Make an appointment to discuss your worries with Greenspoint Dental in Houston.