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Do I Really Have to Floss?

Learn about the benefits of flossing, and the correct flossing technique.

Many people do not like to floss and we frequently hear people ask if it’s really necessary, especially if they are regularly brushing their teeth and using mouthwash. Some people complain that it hurts or makes their gums bleed, or that it just doesn’t seem to be worth the hassle.

In our opinion, there is no substitute for flossing when it comes to keeping gums and teeth healthy and clean. Throughout the day, plaque accumulates on our teeth. This plaque can cause gum inflammation (gingivitis) that eventually leads to more serious problems. This plaque sticks to the sides of teeth and the best way to remove it is by physically wiping it off. This is what you do when you brush your teeth. The bristles of your tooth brush cannot get between your teeth to clean them effectively, though. That’s what floss is useful for. Floss goes in between teeth and removes the plaque that’s stuck to the side of the teeth. If the plaque is not removed, it can harden into tartar, which can usually only be removed during a dental cleaning.

How to Floss

If flossing is done correctly, it shouldn’t be painful. The floss should be pulled down between the teeth gently until you feel it “snap” past the spot where the teeth touch each other. Then it should be pulled against the side of the tooth as it is moved up and down (think of making the floss into the shape of the letter “C”). You can slide the floss below the gumline until there is a slight resistance - don’t try to force it any further. Remember to clean both teeth before you pull the floss out from between the teeth. There is no need to cut the gums or injure them with the floss.

Bleeding Gums

If your gums bleed when you floss, it is most likely a sign of gingivitis. If you keep flossing every day for about two weeks, you should find that there is much less bleeding than when you started. You can actually see that your gums are getting healthier!

Improvement Over Time

Getting good at flossing takes a little practice, but once you’re experienced, it can be done in a few minutes. There are tools that can be used to make flossing easier as well. If you’re struggling or just uncertain, ask your dentist or hygienist the next time you go for a visit.