The American Dental Association has long promoted the benefits of flossing your teeth as part of a daily dental care regimen. Along with twice-a-day brushing, daily flossing keeps plaque from building up between teeth, where it can calcify and be difficult to remove.
It’s not only important to use ADA approved dental floss but to know how to use that floss. Children and those new to flossing should incorporate good techniques right from the start, to avoid flossing mistakes.
Here are 8 common flossing mistakes to avoid for beginners.
1. Using the Same Section of Floss
To give each of your teeth proper care, and not spread bacteria around your mouth, you need to use a new section of floss for every tooth. Some experts recommend a strand about 18 inches long.
Wind this strand around your fingers, and use a new section of that strand on each tooth. If you watch your hygenist floss your teeth, you will see that they use this same technique, and they will be happy to show you how to do it at home.
2. Not Flossing Both Sides of Each Tooth
When you pull a piece of floss up between two teeth, remember to rub that piece against the sides of both teeth present. This will take extra time, but if you don’t, you’ll miss half of the surfaces you need to clean.
Also, make sure you floss behind the four teeth farthest back in your mouth. Sometimes these teeth are neglected since they have no neighboring teeth behind them, so plaque builds up in that area.
3. Flossing Without Thinking
Have a thoughtful routine when you floss, so that no teeth get neglected. Some people like to start on their top teeth from the front and work toward the back and repeat the same pattern on the bottom. What’s important here is that you find a plan and stick to it.
Also, pay attention while you floss so that if you experience unusual pain, bleeding gums, or any kind of odor on the floss strand itself, you can note it and inform your dentist. Catching signs like this early is key to avoiding gum disease, and other long-term dental problems.
4. Not Flossing Long Enough or Too Long
10 seconds per tooth is an approximate amount of time for flossing. Any less than that and you can miss crucial spots in the mouth. Any more than that can be too hard on your gums, and cause unnecessary bleeding or pain.
You will want to floss once a day, not only when you remember. Some people make it a part of the pre-bed routine so that they never forget to floss. Again, what is important is that you create a regular habit of using floss every day.
5. Stopping When You See Blood
Believe it or not, if blood appears when you floss, it doesn’t mean you need to stop. Actually, you need to keep going.
Chances are, you are dealing with a small case of gingivitis, or plaque buildup, and if you keep the flossing up over time, this should clear up.
But, if you continue to floss carefully over time, and the blood increases, or doesn’t go away, make an appointment with your dentist to rule out any kind of serious condition. Early detection is key.
6. Flossing Too Hard or Too Soft
Although you need to be thorough when you floss, you also need to be gentle with your gums.
If you press too hard between your teeth while flossing you can injure your gums. Over time, this kind of injury can lead to gum recession, which can lead to further gum disease.
But, you do need to apply pressure to the sides of teeth, as these are harder surfaces that need a firm touch to come clean.
Remember to go soft on the gum line, and firm on teeth surfaces, and you will find a happy balance in your flossing.
7. Not Flossing In and Around Dental Work
When you have braces or other dental appliances, it is even more important to floss in and around them, since it is very likely that food particles will get stuck there. This may mean using a dental tool other than traditional string floss.
Fortunately, dentists have developed several different alternatives to string floss, such as a water flosser, or a pre-threaded flossing tool, or soft wooden mini-brushes. Your dentist can help you with choosing the right tool for your dental work and will show you how to use it correctly.
8. Biggest of the Flossing Mistakes: Not Flossing at All
You may feel that flossing your teeth is disgusting, or you may feel it’s only for getting food out of your teeth. These thoughts may lead you to downplay the benefits of flossing.
Try using a plaque disclosing tablet on your teeth, or with your kid’s teeth, to show that plaque, unlike food particles, cannot always be seen, but still is living on your teeth. Pay particular attention to the temporary stain this tablet will make BETWEEN your teeth, and you’ll understand why flossing is a necessary habit.
Even though flossing may not appeal to you, it’s a much easier task than having the hygenist repeatedly scraping the plaque off in the dentist’s office. The more you can take care of the plaque at home, the shorter your time in the dentist’s chair will be.
Keep Your Healthy Smile
Neglecting your dental care can cost you a lot of money, time, and eventually your teeth. Dentures and implants are the solutions to tooth loss but require specialized care as well, so you’re better off caring for your teeth and the teeth of your children right from the start.
Avoid these flossing mistakes, and combine your flossing with good brushing technique and periodic visits to the dentist. You will have a healthy mouth and a smile that will show it!
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