By following these 3 steps, you will drastically reduce your risk of developing toothaches and infections.
Step #1 – why
Understand the importance of flossing – why is it important to floss?
Flossing is a daily dental hygiene habit. I recommend you do it at night to make sure there is no food left behind before bedtime. Let’s be honest, flossing is notoriously neglected! Studies estimate only 25% of people floss their teeth. When I hear someone flosses, I get a bit excited because it demonstrates how diligent and motivated they are in looking after their oral health. The underlying basis for not flossing is that it is seen as not being as important as brushing. It is considered to be an add-on, dentistry’s version of ‘would you like fries with that?‘ However, I see first hand the effects of longstanding food trapping and not flossing. These come in the forms of gingivitis (gum infections) and interproximal decay (holes between the teeth). Leaving food in your mouth can also contribute to halitosis (bad breath) and on a whole body level, poor oral hygiene can increase your risk of developing heart problems and diabetes complications. Flossing is required to clean the areas in between the teeth. These areas cannot be reached by toothbrush bristles. Think about it, how can a toothbrush effectively clean small gaps between our teeth? And what happens to bits of steak, chicken and sticky lollies that stick in between our teeth? If you don’t remove them mechanically through flossing, then they sit there and fester. This is how you get dental problems.
Step #2 – how
Learn how to make the most out of your tools and put them to good use.
I use the broad umbrella term ‘flossing’ to describe cleaning areas in between the teeth. What instrument you choose is up to you. Examples include: floss (waxed, satin, standard), floss tape (wider than floss), interdental brushes, floss picks, piksters, floss holders and many more. At Riverstone Family Dental, I take the time to show my patients how to effectively floss. Flossing involves inserting dental floss or another instrument in between the teeth and moving it back and forth. While you do this, ensure you are making contact with the sides of each tooth. By doing so, you will be able to dislodge any food or plaque stuck in these areas. If you are wearing braces, you need to make sure you floss above and below the wire – taking care not to bend it.
Step #3 – do
Start doing and do it again and again – create a habit.
If you want anything to last in the long term, it must become a habit. How do we as humans form a habit? I read one article on habits recently and it resonated with me so I’ll share some key points with you: There are 3 R’s to forming a new habit, they are:
- Reminder – this is the trigger which will help you remember to start the behaviour
- Routine – the action you take to develop the behaviour
- Reward – the benefit you get after the behaviour
So how can you apply this to flossing? Here are some ideas:
- Download an App which reminds you to floss daily or set up a daily calendar event with a reminder to floss.
- Floss at the same time each day and do it in the same way each time – start in a specific spot and work your way around your mouth systematically.
- Reward yourself by listening to music afterwards, having a bath, going for a walk. Rewards will differ from person to person and are derived from your reason why you want to floss in the first place. One person’s reward might be that their gums look healthier because they don’t bleed anymore or because their bad breath has disappeared.
Change your thinking about flossing by understanding its importance is equal to brushing. Learn from your local dentist how to do it well and get them to point out areas in your mouth which may be susceptible to food trapping and what is the best flossing tool for you. And lastly, start to floss everyday at a similar time in order to form a habit.