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11 Flossing Do’s and Don’ts to Protect Your Smile

Benjamin Roussey | Apr 4, 2018

To floss or not to floss? That seems to be the million dollar question! For every dentist who urges you to floss, you’ll find another one down the street, warning you off with everything that can go wrong. Arrghhh! Why can’t the medical community agree on at least this one thing?

Well, the good news is that the medical community is in consensus on flossing, mostly. But like any good deed, there is also plenty that can go wrong with it and cause potential harm to your precious gums and teeth. But you can rest easy. Just follow these 11 clear do’s and don’ts, and you can safely embrace the dental blessing that is flossing!

1. Make Flossing an Everyday Thing


There you have it people, the undiluted truth endorsed by the dental community. If we are going to put food in our mouth 2-3 times a day, it makes sense to thoroughly clean our teeth at least once a day. And mere brushing just doesn’t cut it as the bristles fail to reach all the gaps between our teeth. So flossing isn’t just good for us, it is necessary for the health of our teeth.

While this routine has been around in varied forms for ages, it was revived for the modern world in 1819 by dentist Levi Spear Parmly, universally considered as the father and champion of modern dental hygiene.

It was he who first propagated the modern method using a simple silk thread. And there lies its secret. As long as you stick close to the original technique of using thread, dentists are in agreement that flossing does a whole lot more good than bad. So drop your uncertainty and go for it, daily.

2. Give Flossing a Couple of Minutes


The 2-minute flossing technique is as real as it comes. Most people tend to spend a couple of minutes brushing, but skimp when it comes to flossing. But guess what – you need as much time to ensure that every nook and cranny between your pearly whites are effectively dealt with. So 2 minutes of flossing, just once a day, and no more.

3. Look for the ADA Seal of Protection


The American Dental Association (or ADA) is responsible for upholding the high standard of all dental tools and props. So look for that high-quality “ADA accepted” seal on your flossing device. This ensures that the material is non-toxic, and has been safely produced as per the stringent guidelines of the ADA.

4. Be Gentle on Your Gums


Again remember, you gums (or your teeth) don’t need you acting like a chainsaw. So any flossing prop or technique that brings out the aggressor in you is a sure no-no!

Dentists encourage us to gently wrap the floss (thread) below the gum line, and make repetitive circular movements for a thorough clean. This is where the germs typically hide, so take time to weed them out carefully even as you treat your gums and teeth with care. This is all the more important if you have any fillings or crown caps.

5. Encourage Your Children to Floss


Unfortunately, plaque and other dental germs are not exclusive to adults. So teach your children too to embrace this cleaning technique, even if it needs your personal supervision. Flossing not only gets rid of germs, it also removes bad breath even as it shines up the surface of our teeth. So if you want your kids to retain their winning smile for years, teach them to floss – every single day.

6. Listen to Your Floss


Do you know that your floss is very active with feedback? And, are you listening to what it tells you? If you are in peak dental hygiene, your floss will move effortlessly around your gums and teeth. But if your floss is snapping ever so often, it could be a warning for a larger concern (like tartar, cavities or dental overhangs where your filling hasn’t been contoured evenly). Whatever it tells you, it is good to double check with your dentist no matter how trivial it seems.

And here are a few vital don’ts with flossing to protect your smile:

7. Don’t Replace Flossing with Mouthwash


You can believe us when we tell you that it is a dental myth to consider mouthwash as a good alternative for flossing. Why? For two reasons: One, it has been legally proven in court. Two, most mouthwash liquids have alcohol, and nothing good comes from using alcohol to wash your teeth. Mouthwash liquids also contain fluoride, an ingredient that further divides the dental community.

While the old school dentists believe that fluoride is good to prevent tooth decay, an increasing number of dentists are waking up to the toxic effects of fluoride. As that old adage goes, it sure is better to be safe than sorry. The moral of the story is that flossing still rules.

8. Don’t Re-use and be Stingy


Are you tempted by those fancy, branded floss picks? There are at least 2 good reasons why they are a bad idea. One, they resemble a chainsaw and can hence fool you into believing flossing equals sawing between your teeth!

No, seriously! Many people simply drag the floss pick like a saw between the teeth, not realizing the devastation this can cause on your poor papilla! (We mean your pink, tender gums here). Secondly, you are forced to re-use that germ-filled floss pick across your teeth.

Think about this for a minute, and you will realize that floss picks don’t really clean your teeth. They simply spread the germs around. So yes, they are an equal opportunity provider for germs. And as you are sure to have realized, this is so not a good thing!

9. Don’t Pick those Floss Picks


There are a lot of conditions that can send you into coughing fits, so it might seem fine to shrug this one off, especially if you’ve been sick recently. However, sometimes RA can contribute to a cough; more accurately, a persistent cough is one of the most prevalent complications associated with RA outside of joint issues. This is likely because the inflammation caused by RA may affect the lungs, which can lead to coughing. In fact, some treatment options for RA may also increase the risk of developing a cough. If it persists more than a week, see a doctor.

10.Don’t Hesitate to Experiment


As long as you remain gently cautious with your teeth (and look for the ADA symbol), you are encouraged to experiment with floss props.

For instance, did you know that there are as many as 6 different props you can use? Waxed string, unwaxed string, tape, braided floss, holders, threaders, power flossers, water flossers, etc. Phew, that is quite a choice! But of course, you should also reach out to your dentist for suggestions on the prop and technique that will best suit your dental history.

11. Don’t Abandon it if Your Gums Bleed


This is perhaps the single biggest reason why people give up on flossing. But what many don’t realize is that bleeding gums are not caused by flossing. They are more likely a result of gum inflammation or gum disease. In either case, while it is advisable to check this with your dentist, flossing only enhances the health of your gums and teeth. So don’t stop, ever.

Flossing will save you money and it will mean fewer visits to the dentist.

Flossing is a valuable practice well worth your time. It also doesn’t matter much when you do it – morning or night – as long as you do it at the same time every day. Conversely, you may be tempted to overdo it to improve the health of your teeth. Again, don’t as this can be abrasive on sensitive gums.