First, let’s go over some basics.
What does floss do?
Floss is used to remove all the food particles, bacteria, and plaque that is stuck in-between your teeth. Whether you can feel it or not, food gets stuck between your teeth. If you neglect to floss your teeth for a long period of time, plaque will buildup. Your toothbrush is not powerful enough (nor has the capability) to remove the plaque stuck between your teeth. You will be susceptible to gingivitis, a gum disease that has its own set of dental health problems.
What is floss made from?
Back in the 1800s, floss was made out of silk. We’ve come a long way since then. Most modern day floss is now made from plastic beads, believe it or not. They are melted down and the liquefied plastic is squeezed like toothpaste into long, thin strands. The floss is then stretched, making the molecules longer and stronger. Dental floss is supposed to be unbreakable, hence the use of plastic. Additional layers like wax and flavoring agents are added to make flossing a bit more bearable. Here’s a video on how dental floss is made.
What happens if you don't floss?
Consistent flossing will improve your oral hyiene because it removes plaque buildup. If you neglect to use dental floss, the food particles and plaque will cause gum irritation, which makes your gum tissue become sensitive. If it's your first time flossing in months, chances are your gums will bleed. If you don't floss, ease your way into it. Soon enough, you'll wonder why you never did it in the first place!
Using dental floss is one of the most important elements of oral hygiene. As stated above, flossing removes plaque and decaying food that remains stuck between your teeth. Leaving the food particles will irritate the gums, which isn't good for your gum health. And eating acidic foods will also break down your enamel, demineralizing your teeth. This will lead to cavities.
Types of Floss
We’re all familiar with the traditional type of stringed floss. However, there are several types of regular floss. There is waxed floss, unwaxed floss, mint flavored floss, etc. First off, there is no difference between wax and unwaxed floss. The main thing that determines the level of effectiveness if your flossing technique. A lot of people prefer wax coated floss because it slides in and out of your teeth a bit easier than unwaxed floss. And floss with mint coating is primarily used to a) give you the feeling of freshness and b) make the act of flossing more pleasant. There is no reason to be concerned over calories or sugar.
Floss picks are a popular product nowadays. Floss picks hold the floss for you, making it extremely convenient since you only have to use one hand. While they may be convenient, they are not as effective as regular floss. Floss picks do not allow you to reach all the necessary angles that normal floss can. Why’s that? You’re supposed to complete a “C” around the tooth and go up and down to completely clean the tooth. So you won’t be able to clean your teeth as effectively. Regular floss is recommended, but floss picks are better than nothing for your oral health.
An oral irrigator (also known as a dental water jet) is a flossing device that uses a stream of pulsating water to remove plaque and food particles between teeth. It’s a new form of flossing that not only removes plaque, but improves your gingival health. The machine has a water reservoir that connects to a device resembling a toothbrush. To use it properly, you should lean over the sink and place it in your mouth. Then turn it on (and close your lips to prevent splashing), and allow the water to flow from your mouth into the sink. Pause briefly between teeth, and aim at the tip just above the gumline at a 90 degree angle. It only takes a minute or two.
How to Floss Properly
- Gather about 18 inches of floss and wind it around your two pointer fingers (or middle fingers), leaving a couple inches to floss with
- Slide the floss gently up and down between your teeth
- Curve the floss in a “C” shape around each tooth, and be sure to go below your gumline. Don’t force it, though, because that can damage your gums and cause bleeding
- Use a new section of floss as plaque/food debris builds up
If you need a visual demonstration, watch this video.
Check out the infographic we posted on brushing and flossing! And we also wrote a blog post on 11 ways you can use floss that don't involve teeth. Check them out!