sAP asked, “Is flossing really as important as brushing?”
Flossing targets areas that cannot be reached while brushing. Brushing targets all the visible tooth surfaces – labial (facing the lips), buccal (facing the cheeks), palatal (near the palate) and lingual (near the tongue). It also covers the biting (incisal) and chewing (occlusal) surfaces. But there are two more surfaces that go untouched by the tooth brush. The mesial and distal, the sides contacting the adjacent teeth. Flossing removes plaque from these surfaces. So yes, it is as important as brushing. Since it caters to surfaces we do not see, we tend to undermine their role in maintaining good oral hygiene.
Dental floss is available at most pharmacies and stores. For those who don’t know how to floss, break off a piece of floss and entwine it between the forefingers of both hands or hold it between the fingers. Pass it in gently between 2 teeth, until you are beyond the contact point between teeth, and near the gums. You can make use of a floss holder, if you find it difficult to floss using your fingers. Take care not to injure the gums in the process. If you are not sure how to floss, your dentist will be able to show you the technique or check out the video embedded below. The wax-coated dental floss is easier to slide in between teeth. Once you have slid the floss in between the teeth, gently slide it back out contacting the sides of the tooth all along the way. Repeat this for each tooth using a clean portion of the floss each time.
Those who have crowding or improperly aligned teeth should take flossing more seriously, since they have more area untouched by the brush due to overlapping of the teeth. Food tends to get lodged in these areas that can lead to plaque accumulation.
One of the common problems patients come in with is, “My tooth just broke off when I woke up this morning!”. In all of these cases, what could have been the cause is constant lodging of food in the area between the teeth without the patient’s knowledge. A cavity would have formed in this area as a result of demineralisation of the tooth structure, due to acids released by bacterial action, culminating in the breaking of the tooth. Since it is not noticed by the patient, they assume it happened overnight, whereas in reality it would have been a slow and gradual process.
You will be surprised at how much food debris or plaque you get out when you floss, even after brushing. The advantages of flossing far outweighs the trouble you feel it takes. So to those who have been putting off flossing, I recommend trying it for a week and see the difference. It is definitely worth flossing daily.