When it comes to your health, flossing your teeth is more important than brushing. So, why do so many of us find reasons not to do it? Dentists say there are simple answers for all our excuses.
Excuse No. 1: Food never gets stuck in my teeth.
You don’t floss so much to remove food from the teeth. You do it to get rid of plaque, the bacterial film that forms between teeth and along your gum line. Doing so daily prevents gum disease and tooth loss. Everyone gets plaque, and it can only be removed by flossing or a deep cleaning from your dentist.
Excuse No. 2: I don’t know how to floss.
Flossing is “the most difficult personal grooming activity there is,” says Samuel B. Low, DDS, a professor at the University of Florida and past president of the American Academy of Periodontology. But it’s one of the most important to learn.
The American Dental Association gives these tips for flossing right:
- Use 18 inches of floss. Wrap most of it around the middle finger of one hand, the rest around your other middle finger.
- Grasp the string tightly between your thumb and forefinger, and use a rubbing motion to guide it between teeth.
- When the floss reaches the gum line, form a C to follow the shape of the tooth.
- Hold the strand firmly against the tooth, and move it gently up and down.
- Repeat with the other tooth, and then repeat the entire process with the rest of your teeth.
- Use fresh sections of floss as you go.
Don’t forget the back of your last molars. “By far, most gum disease and most decay occurs in the back teeth,” Low says.
Excuse No. 3: I’m not coordinated enough to floss.
If you have trouble reaching the back of your mouth, ask your dentist about using one of these tools:
- plastic, disposable, Y-shaped flossers that allow for extra reach
- small, round brushes
- pointed, rubber tips
- wooden or plastic pics (called interdental cleaners)
A child will need your help to floss until he’s about 11 years old. Kids should start to floss as soon as they have two teeth that touch.
Excuse No. 4: I don’t have time to floss.
Find a time of day that works for you. You should floss at least once a day. Two times is best.
Make it a part of your routine, morning and night. If you find that you forget, store your floss with your toothbrush and toothpaste as a reminder.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to do it in front of your bathroom mirror. Keep some floss in your car to use while you’re in traffic. Stash some in your desk and use it after lunch. The key is to fit in flossing when it works for you.
Excuse No. 5: It hurts when I floss.
If your gums bleed or hurt, you may have gingivitis or gum disease. That’s an even bigger reason to floss.
“Flossing should not be a painful experience, but stopping flossing because of bleeding (or pain) is just the opposite of what you should be doing,” says Mark S. Wolff, DDS, PhD. He’s chairman of the department of cardiology and preventive medicine at New York University School of Dentistry.
If you brush and floss daily, the bleeding and pain should stop in less than 2 weeks. If it doesn’t, see your dentist.
Excuse No. 6: I’m pregnant.
It may be hard to floss if you’re tired or nauseated. But it’s important to keep up with your oral health routine. Pregnancy can cause a wide range of dental issues, from gum disease to enamel wear.
Excuse No. 7: My teeth are too close together.
Try waxed or glide floss for an easier fit. If you have recessed gums, varied gaps between teeth, or braces, you can also try a threader or loop to find an easier entry point. If your floss shreds, you may have a cavity or a problem with dental work, like a broken crown or loose filling. Tell your dentist to take a look.