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Dr. Edwards' Blog

Five Biggest Flossing Mistakes -- November 8, 2011

As many as 75% of Americans have some form of gum disease or periodontitis.  Poor oral hygiene often results in cavities, sore and bleeding gums, bad breath and lost teeth.  But the effects also can be chronic -- like hypertension, heart disease and stroke.

As many as 75% of Americans have some form of gum disease or periodontitis.  Poor oral health often results in cavities, bleeding gums and lost teeth.  But the effects also can be chronic -- like hypertension, heart disease and stroke.  Preventing gum disease is simple:  brush at least twice a day and floss properly.

Dentists in New York recently surveyed 622 of their patients about flossing.  Only 13.5% of them floss their teeth, and 60% of those are doing it wrong.  As dentists like to say, "You don't have to floss all your teeth, only the ones you want to keep."

See if you're committing one of the 5 Biggest Flossing Mistakes: 

  1. You don't floss daily.  Research shows even healthy teeth can progress to gum disease within 24 hours if they aren't cleaned properly.  For a healthy mouth, you should be flossing at least nightly.  That's because your body's salivary glands, which help neutralize the bacteria in your mouth, show down while you sleep.  So flossing before bed gets the bacteria out before your salivary glands take a break.
  1. You snap the floss.  Snapping the floss into the gums may cut the attachment of gum tissue to the teeth.  Gently glide the floss.  If you have trouble, try floss designed specifically for tight teeth.
  2. You saw the floss.  If you saw, or simply thread the floss in and out, you won't get into the crevice between the gum and tooth -- which harbors the bacteria that causes gum disease.  Instead, hold the floss in a "C shape" and cup each tooth.
  3. You "floss" with fingernails, paper clips or other sharp objects.  Using those things can gouge your gums and cause damage.  Your #1 tool is dental floss -- waxed or unwaxed.  Other acceptable options are round toothpicks, plastic toothpicks with floss on them or small picks with brushes on the end.
  4. You think brushing is more important.  Although studies show more people brush than floss, dentists say if it came down to one over the other, the answer is simple:  floss.  The majority of gum disease begins between the teeth and flossing is the only way to effectively reach that area.

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