Anyone who’s been to the dentist before has heard all about the benefits of flossing. A daily flossing habit is crucial for removing tartar buildup, preventing gum disease and protecting teeth from decay.
But understanding the importance of flossing and actually getting into the habit of doing it regularly are two different things. Even though getting in the habit of flossing only adds an extra few minutes to your nighttime routine, when you’re tired and you just want to go to bed, it can still feel like a lot of work to do in addition to brushing your teeth. To make matters worse, people who don’t get in the habit of flossing daily tend to have sensitive gums that hurt and bleed when they do. The discomfort makes flossing unpleasant, and it becomes even more difficult to form this healthy habit.
The good news is that just a few days is all it takes to drastically improve the condition of your gums and start to work your way up to a lifelong habit and a lifetime of healthier teeth and gums. Your gums should stop bleeding after a few days to a week of steady flossing; in a short time they’ll take on a healthy, firm appearance. Even if you’ve never flossed before in your life, it’s easy to work it into your daily routine with a little help from these simple tips.
Swap the floss
Buying a new brand or variety can make flossing more comfortable. Inexperienced flossers should look for dental floss types labeled “gentle”; these products are thinner and more waxed for a smooth texture that glides easily between your teeth, making your gums hurt less. Experiencing a softer, less painful sensation can diminish your fear and reluctance when it comes to flossing.
Pick up the habit – Switch to Floss Picks
Floss picks are a great product for people new to flossing. They’re designed as flexible plastic handles pre-threaded with an appropriate amount of floss. You can use the pointed tip like a toothpick to dislodge pieces of food stuck between your gums, and the handle makes it easier to access hard-to-reach spots like your back molars. You can buy the picks with any type of floss; though this product is slightly more expensive than buying the floss alone, it’s definitely worth it if it’ll help get you in the habit. Be sure to not reuse any type of floss as aggressive flossing can in some cases can cause infection.
Check your Technique
Many beginner flossers aren’t sure how to floss properly, and they’re guilty of going too gung-ho on their gums. Flossing extra hard won’t make up for doing it infrequently; it’ll just leave you with sore gums and make you want to do it less in the future. Instead of using a “sawing” back and forth motion, simply position the floss between your teeth and gums and move it gently up and down. This flossing technique is perfectly adequate for removing tartar buildup but is less likely to cause bleeding and discomfort. Learn more about how to floss properly here.
Flossing can be more complicated for some people than others. Flossing with braces or overcrowded teeth can require different techniques. Be sure to talk to your dentist about how to floss most effectively for your particular set of teeth.
Author; Dr Jeremy Rourke, B.D.S. Hons. Syd Univ. Dental Surgeon
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My name is Jeremy Rourke. I’m part of a family of dentists with my father, brother, cousin and nephew also being dentists. I won a University of Sydney Dental Alumni prize for being the top student in my year and graduated with Honours in 1971. I have been a Registered dentist for over 40 years. In that time I have created a few “firsts” in my efforts to stay ahead.