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Why Flossing Is a Must, Not a Maybe

The American Dental Association recommends flossing your teeth each day. You can use any tool made for cleaning between your teeth, as long as you do it daily to remove plaque your toothbrush does not reach. When plaque builds up, it can cause tooth decay and irritate your gums, causing gingivitis. Untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease which is a more advanced, destructive form of gum disease. Over 30 percent of Americans never floss, despite the obvious benefits.

When dentists see cavities on interproximal surfaces (the sides where your teeth touch), they can tell you have not been flossing daily or flossing correctly. Sometimes, patients come in complaining of chronic bad breath. Flossing helps keep your breath fresh by removing food particles that can stick between your teeth and rot.

While flossing has important dental health benefits, it also provides benefits to your overall health. Gum disease is an infection which can damage other parts of your body. Unfortunately, untreated gum disease, especially in its advanced stages is linked directly to respiratory illnesses like pneumonia. Individuals with advanced gum disease are much more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis according to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society. Well-documented studies indicate links between periodontal disease and an increased risk of heart disease or stroke and pregnancy complications. If you needed a better reason to start flossing, consider the diseases you can avoid by flossing once a day!

When Should Kids Begin Flossing?

Kids generally have two teeth close enough to floss around age 1 or 2. Baby teeth are smaller than adult teeth, so they are spaced further apart. Once two teeth are close enough to clean between them with a toothbrush, your child can get a cavity between them. If you’re uncertain, talk to your child’s dentist to see when you need to start flossing their teeth. Most parents will do whatever they can to help their child avoid needing a filling. Unfortunately, toddlers can’t floss by themselves, so you will have to do it for them until they can do it themselves, usually around age six or seven.

You can also start flossing your child’s teeth before they touch each other. It will get them used to flossing in a stress-free setting. Extra teeth cleaning can’t hurt.

Four Ways to make Flossing More Fun for Kids

Not all kids are fond of flossing. You can explain the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends daily flossing to prevent cavities, but this probably won’t impress them. Instead, try the following activities:

  1. Floss your teeth and then your kid’s teeth. Most children like to imitate their parents. You’ll be setting a good example and showing them flossing is a lifelong habit. It can also be a good bonding experience.
  2. Reward daily flossing by making a chart to put in the bathroom. Give your kids a sticker for each day they floss and when the chart is full, give them a small reward. Give them a small toy, coloring book or other reward that isn’t a sweet treat. Daily rewards work better with some children. You can let younger kids choose a favorite bedtime story if they brush and floss, with your help, each night.
  3. Floss your child’s teeth and then have them brush using one of the fun, free brushing apps available, like brushDJ or Chomper Chums. Your child will gladly floss so they can play their song or feed their character.
  4. Go to the store with your child and let them pick out their flosser, which is easier for them to use than dental floss. They can also get their own toothbrush and toothpaste with fun flavors and characters. Be sure to choose products featuring the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance. This ensures the product is safe and effective. Products with the seal come in various price ranges to meet all budgets.
  5. Explain the benefits of flossing that would be important to your child. For small children, tell them their dental exams will go better. Older kids may be more interested in having fresher breath.

Effective Flossing Techniques

If you’re dedicated to flossing every day, do it correctly to get the greatest benefit.

  1. Cut a piece of floss from the container, making it about 18 to 24 inches inches long.
  2. Lightly wrap each end around the index or middle finger of each hand. Use whatever fingers are comfortable for you. Alternatively, you can tie the floss in a circle and use all your fingers, except your thumb, to hold it.
  3. Move the floss between your teeth, curving it into a C shape. Don’t forget the one side of your last molar in the back of your mouth. It’s hard to reach this spot with a toothbrush.
  4. Use a new section of your floss for each pass between teeth.

If you have limited manual dexterity, try a hand-held flosser, a small brush made to act as a flosser, or a water-powered one. Hand-held flossers may be ideal if you have a small mouth. They also made flossing faster, making them ideal for busy individuals who may be tempted to skip flossing if they are running late. According to a study in the Dental Health Journal, interdental brushes may remove more plaque than traditional dental floss.

If you have an oral appliance, like braces or a bridge, there is special floss with a pointed end you can use called super floss if you’re not interested in using a water flosser. Make sure to take extra care when flossing with dental devices, you don’t want to pull or yank the floss too hard and risk damaging your gums or your device. If you need help understanding the best way to floss, simply contact your dentist and they can demonstrate how to floss correctly.

It’s essential to keep the spaces between your teeth clean, so use whatever product is easiest for you to use, so you do it every day. If you have any questions about your flossing technique or what will work best for you, contact Dental One Associates of Georgia for some helpful advice from a dental professional.

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