Your mouth is home to several different types of bacteria and this bacteria creates plaque. Plaque is the sticky, colorless film that forms on our teeth and it can turn into tartar if it's not removed daily. Tartar hardens on the teeth and then spreads underneath the gum line, which gives plaque even more surface area to build-up.1 Over time, this build-up can lead to gum disease and cavities.
Proper tooth brushing can help remove plaque and excess food particles, but it can't reach the areas that floss can. According to the American Dental Association, interdental cleaners such as floss are an essential part of taking care of your teeth and gums. Cleaning between teeth removes plaque that can lead to cavities or gum disease from the areas where a toothbrush can’t reach. Dental floss can clean between the teeth and reach below the gum line.2
How often should you floss your teeth?
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you should clean between your teeth with floss or other tools, such as interdental brushes, at least once per day to remove plaque, bacteria and food debris.3 However, it's okay to floss more than once a day if you have something stuck in your teeth. There's not a set amount of time you're supposed to floss. The goal is to ensure you get between all your teeth and reach your gum line.
How many times a day should you floss if it hurts?
If flossing hurts or causes bleeding, you should contact your dentist. They'll be able to determine why flossing is causing you pain and make suggestions on what you can do to make it more bearable.
Flossing with braces
Braces can make it harder to brush and floss your teeth. However, it’s important to stay on top of your oral health routine when you have braces because they can trap food, sugars and liquids after eating. The key to flossing with braces is ensuring you use the right tools. You need something that can thread beneath the main wire of your braces and that can slide easily between the teeth. Look for an orthodontic floss threader, wax floss or ask your dentist for other recommendations.4
Flossing with sensitive gums
Sensitive gums can make flossing seem unattractive, but it can help prevent additional damage. You should continue to floss at least once per day but consider a soft floss or a water pick.5 It's also possible that you’re not flossing too hard so be sure to ask your dentist how to properly floss your teeth.
How to floss correctly
Even if you floss once a day, it won’t necessarily be effective without the right technique. Follow these steps to become a pro-flosser in no time:6
- Using around 18 inches of floss, wrap the ends around your fingertips.
- Slide the floss gently between your teeth.
- Curve the floss around your tooth and rub it up and down to scrape away plaque.
- Rinse with mouthwash and brush your teeth.
- Don’t use the same piece of floss again — it can fray and collect bacteria.
The impact of not flossing on your health
Your oral hygiene has an impact on your overall health. Bacteria from a condition like periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream and impact your cardiovascular health. Fortunately, practicing good oral hygiene, like flossing, could reduce your risk of developing these serious conditions.
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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.