Resolve to Floss for Better Dental Care

Jamie J. Alexander on February 21, 2019

Your local Boynton Beach and Delray Beach dentist, Dr. Jamie J. Alexander, wants you to floss daily. Almost all patients not only need this reminder, they also need to resolve to floss every day.

Why? Flossing removes trapped food particles and disrupts plaque, a sticky bacterial film that clings to teeth. When carbohydrates are left on your teeth, oral bacteria feed on them and release acid that erodes tooth enamel. This is the cause of dental cavities. As oral bacteria flourish on your teeth, the sticky plaque develops more and more. It’s a constant source of irritation to your gum tissue, causing the start and advancement of gum disease.

Effective brushing removes plaque and food debris from the front and back surfaces of your teeth. Effective flossing removes plaque and food debris from between your teeth.

You need to keep disrupting and washing away food debris and plaque between your teeth to slow down the development of dental plaque, prevent cavities between teeth, and maintain healthy gum tissue. If you are effective, you may only need to see the dentist for a checkup and cleaning every six months, which is the typical period for plaque to start developing in a well cleaned and healthy mouth.

The connection between flossing and gum inflammation

Gum tissue irritated by plaque becomes inflamed and begins pulling away from the base of the tooth. It begins to appear puffy and may bleed when teeth are flossed and brushed. Gum recession (the pulling away) creates an enlarged “gum pocket” of space between the gum tissue and tooth surface. As inflammation progresses, the pocket becomes measurably deeper and bacteria collects in the pockets leading to infection.

When a pocket exceeds 4mm, gum disease is present. If gum tissue bleeds when you brush, it is an obvious sign that plaque is growing and your gum tissue is inflamed. If you have regular dental cleanings in the dental office and floss once a day and brush at least twice a day, including brushing at bedtime, you are likely to get the gum inflammation under control. Sometimes more aggressive treatment, called root planing and scaling, is needed in the dental office. You can celebrate when a gum pocket goes from 5mm to 4mm and lower.

Ideal gum pocket depth is lower than 3mm. Healthy gum tissue is tight around your teeth.

Four Ways to Floss

There’s more than one way to floss, so if you dislike string flossing, you can try out the options. “We’ve seen excellent results with water flossing,” says Dr. Alexander. “Many of our patients use both string floss and a Waterpik® with excellent results”

  • String floss comes in a single filament form and a multi-strands of nylon form. The latter is less expensive and comes in both waxed and unwaxed forms. The single filament floss slides more easily in tight spaces and rarely shreds. Flossing with any of these kinds of string floss is highly effective. “Our hygienist can demonstrate how to ‘really get into’ the spaces you might be missing,” says Dr. Alexander. “If you are frustrated by floss shredding, use waxed floss between teeth that are not tightly positioned, and use single filament floss between teeth that are tightly positioned, or develop the habit of using a Waterpik® water flosser.”
  • Water flossing tools have been in use for many years. Many of our patients use a Waterpik® and find their Waterpik easier to use than string floss. Because water flossing, done properly, cleans teeth more thoroughly, our clinical team recommends this type of flossing to patients who have deepening gum pockets. Ask our hygienist about the best way to water floss. In previous blogs, we’ve written about the benefits of water flossing and even how to clean your Waterpik.
  • The new Phillips Sonicare AirFloss uses compressed air in bursts to force droplets of water between teeth, whereas the Waterpik forces a stream of water between teeth under constant pressure. Patients find the Airfloss device less messy to use, and because of its battery operation, more portable.
  • Interdental brushes and toothpicks of various kinds have been reported to be effective, but what we typically witness is lazy usage among patients who choose this option as their everyday method. “When patients give up on string flossing or water flossing and intermittently use interdental brushes with the hope they will work, we’ve seen plaque develop and oral health decline,” says Dr. Alexander. “I do recommend you carry them in your bag or pocket, so if you are away from home for a meal, you can quickly dislodge stuck food particles. However, I wouldn’t depend on them to prevent plaque buildup.”

Jamie J. Alexander, D.D.S., and his entire dental team in Boynton Beach, FL, wish you a Happy 2019. “We really don’t like to beat patients up about flossing. We just hope you resolve to floss,” says Dr. Alexander. “Now is an ideal time for renewed commitment.”