While there’s little doubt that we all brush our teeth every day (right?), how many of us really carry out our flossing routine religiously? It can get quite annoying and boring to have to do TWO whole dental care routines in the morning. But will our laziness come to bite us in the end?
National polls reveal that only every 4 in 10 Americans floss their teeth at least once a day, with 20% never flossing at all. That’s quite a high number when you think about how much emphasis dentists put on flossing.
But why exactly are our dentists always saying about flossing every day? What’s so special about it? To answer that question, we’ve compiled all the health benefits of flossing your teeth in this article (some might surprise you). Keep reading to find out more!
What is Dental Floss?
Dental floss is a soft thread made of thin filaments used to clean the areas between the teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach effectively. The American Dental Association recommends that you make flossing a part of your daily dental health routine to keep your teeth in top shape (more on this later).
There are three different types of floss. The best choice for you will depend on the space between your teeth, whether you have dental braces, and your personal preferences.
- Standard Floss: This is perfect for most people. Traditional flosses are made of thin nylon strings that can fit between almost everyone’s teeth. You can find waxed or unwaxed options along with unflavored or flavored ones.
- Dental tape: Dental tape is useful for individuals with braces or large gaps in their teeth. It’s shaped like a flat ribbon and is broader than standard floss.
- Super Floss: A super floss is a slightly more expensive option than the other two, but it’s an excellent option for individuals with braces, bridges, and other appliances. It has a spongy material in the middle that cleans around the devices, a stiffened end for cleaning below, and a standard floss section for all the regular flossing benefits.
Now that you know what dental floss is, your next question probably is: “What are the benefits of flossing?”. Keep reading to learn the answer!
What Are the Benefits of Flossing?
Covers all Crevices
Did you know that around 35% of your teeth’s surfaces will not receive adequate cleaning unless you floss? Brushing alone can’t give your teeth the level of care and upkeep needed to maintain optimal dental health.
Your toothbrush bristles can’t reach all the crevices. The small gaps between teeth are almost impossible to clean with a toothbrush alone. Flossing will clean any unwanted debris like food, plaque, and bacteria from between your teeth.
Plaque is a yellowish coating that develops when bacteria build up micro-colonies in areas where your brush doesn’t reach. Plaque can stain and damage your teeth over a long period and eventually harden into tartar.
This is not to say that brushing your teeth is ineffective. To experience the full benefits of flossing, you need to brush and floss.
Prevents Foul Odor
Do you often have stinky breath even after brushing your teeth? Dental floss could be your best friend. Bad breath can have many different causes, not all related to dental health and hygiene.
One of the most common causes of bad breath is bacteria and food buildup in the area between your teeth. Tartar formation that occurs from long-standing plaque residue causes the worst stench.
Deep cleaning through regular flossing can eliminate these factors and prevent bad breath.
Gingivitis is more commonly referred to as gum disease, which isn’t technically correct. Gingivitis is a mild form of periodontal disease (gum disease) and also the most common type. The main signs of gingivitis are:
- Dark red gums
- Swollen gums
- Bad breath
- Bleeding from gums when you brush your teeth
- Tender gums
Gingivitis is caused by plaque that forms on your teeth and hardens into tartar, which becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. Tartar and plaque irritate the gingiva (part of your gums) and cause inflammation. Gingivitis can lead to tooth decay or even progress to a severe form of gum disease called periodontitis, leading to complete tooth loss.
The best cure for any problem is deterrence. You can prevent yourself from ever facing any gum problems by cleaning bacteria from the gum at the base of your teeth (gingiva) with daily flossing.
If your gingivitis is not getting better after beginning your flossing routine, visit your dentist for a professional cleaning.
Here are a few other tips to prevent gingivitis:
- Use antibacterial mouthwash regularly to kill any remaining bacteria in your mouth that could cause gingivitis. Many types of mouthwash available are specifically made to prevent gum disease.
- Massage olive oil/coconut oil on your gums every day to get rid of gingivitis-causing bacteria.
- Stop smoking if that is something you do. Smokers have a higher chance of developing gum diseases. Not only that, but smoking also weakens the immune system and leaves your mouth vulnerable to many other infections as well.
- Reduce your sugar intake as sugar can stick to your teeth and cause plaque buildup.
Keeps Diabetes at Bay
This is one of the more surprising benefits of flossing your teeth. A clinical study by the EHWA Women’s University in South Korea found that flossing and brushing your teeth regularly can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It was found that individuals with dental health problems like gum disease or tartar had a higher chance of developing a blood sugar problem.
“Our study suggested that improved oral hygiene may be associated with a decreased risk of new-onset diabetes,” said study author Dr. Yoonkyung Chang in an interview with WebMD.
They’re not exactly sure what causes the connection between these two phenomena. Their best hypothesis is that poor oral hygiene leads to gum disease, which causes bacteria to grow in the space between the teeth. These bacteria are transported into the bloodstream, where they trigger an immune system response, which can cause problems in blood sugar regulation.
Other than that, flossing can be useful in controlling diabetes in individuals who already have the condition. This happens because flossing regularly prevents bacteria from entering your bloodstream, thus preventing any unwanted variations in blood sugar.
People with diabetes often suffer from gum disease due to high blood sugar, which can weaken teeth and gums. Flossing, as mentioned earlier, is a fantastic deterrent for gingivitis.
Prevents Respiratory Diseases
A study published in the Journal of Periodontology found a link between adverse dental health and pulmonary diseases like acute bronchitis and pneumonia. This occurs, once again, due to bacteria that live in the spaces between your teeth.
If the bacteria buildup is not taken care of, it can travel down your respiratory tract into your lungs. These bacteria can then cause all kinds of sinus infections or other serious respiratory illnesses, like pneumonia.
Flossing is an easy preventative procedure that clears these bacteria from your mouth before they can ever travel down your respiratory tract.
Reduces the Risk of Heart Problems
Various studies across dentistry and cardiology have shown a positive correlation between gum disease and an increased risk of developing heart disease.
There are a few theories as to why this happens:
Many experts believe that the bacteria that cause gingivitis are to blame. As buildup of bacteria occurs, some of it travels down into your digestive system and gets absorbed into the bloodstream. Long term buildup of these bacteria in your blood vessels causes inflammation and damage. This can further lead to the formation of small blood clots and an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
Some evidence supports this theory. Many studies have found some oral bacteria in blood samples taken from atherosclerotic blood vessels that are nowhere near the mouth.
Another set of experts believe that the immune system response to the bacteria, rather than the bacteria itself, is what causes this connection between gum disease and heart problems. They say that the inflammation, which is your body’s primary immune system response, leads to a sequence of vascular damage in your body.
The final theory is that there may not be a direct relationship between poor dental health and cardiovascular disease. They could be caused by a third factor like smoking, lack of exercise, or a lack of access to quality healthcare.
Whatever the case may be, the bottom line is that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Even if there is a minuscule chance that your poor dental care routine can cause heart disease, you owe it to yourself to solve it.
It’s easy, really— just brush and floss your teeth at least twice daily to maintain oral health and, in turn, heart health.
A Curious Cure for Erectile Dysfunction
This is one of the most intriguing benefits of flossing on our list. Believe it or not, dental health can have an impact on your performance in the bedroom.
A study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that gingivitis was seven times more prevalent in males who had erectile dysfunction than those who didn’t.
As the saying goes— there’s no smoke without fire. The study theorizes that the likely culprit is the oral bacteria that makes its way into the bloodstream.
Even if you don’t quite believe this claim, there is no harm in flossing your teeth a few minutes every day. Try it out, and it might just work for you!
They say save the best for last, and so we have! Flossing regularly will save you a ton of money on future medical bills.
Flossing is part of preventive dental care. The logic is simple— prevent oral health problems from ever happening, and you won’t have to make any needless and expensive trips to the dentist.
We all know how expensive professional dental procedures can be. So the next time you’re lazy about picking up that tiny piece of dental string, think about all the bucks you’d have to spend if you ended up with a big dental problem.
When Should I Floss My Teeth?
Developing a good dental care routine involves knowing the right time to perform your oral care procedures. Many people prefer to brush their teeth first and floss afterward, but this is generally not what we would recommend.
The best way to go about this is to floss your teeth first and brush your teeth afterward. We ask you to do this because flossing will remove all the plaque and food stuck between your teeth into your mouth while brushing will clear these particles entirely from your mouth. If you brush before flossing, this debris will remain in your mouth till the next time you brush.
Finally, we recommend that you brush your teeth at least twice per day and floss at least once daily.
Now that you’ve gone through all the health benefits of flossing and the dangers of poor dental health, there’s almost no excuse to not include flossing into your daily routine.
As with everything else, consistency is key. You can’t floss for only two days and expect dental miracles.
Use our advice on flossing before brushing your teeth to help keep yourself on track. You’re less likely to skip out on flossing if you do it before brushing. This is simply because laziness usually kicks in after you’ve brushed your teeth and your mouth feels momentarily fresh.
While flossing is a great dental care activity, it’s not a solution for all your oral problems. If you are experiencing any dental symptoms, visit our doctor immediately.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and happy flossing!