Do I really need to floss? Every day? I never get cavities, so why floss?
Every dentist hears these questions on a regular basis. In fact, last week I was having a conversation outside of the office with a young man in his 30s. Once I told him I was a dentist he immediately asked about flossing. “Is it a myth? I don’t see the point.”
There’s an old saying, “you only have to floss the teeth you want to keep.” It sounds like an exaggeration, but in many cases it’s not. Here are the top 5 reasons why flossing is important. Remember, your dentist has no reason to lie to you about this. The more you floss, the fewer dental issues arise, which means less work for your dentist.
Flossing prevents CAVITIES! There are five surfaces of each tooth you need to clean- the top (chewing surface), front, back, and two sides. Brushing alone only cleans the top, front, and back (assuming you are doing it properly). That leaves 2 surfaces dirty, or 40% of your tooth! The food you eat mixes with bacteria living in your mouth producing dental plaque and tartar. If left uncleaned, a cavity will develop over time.
Depending on the size of the cavity, your tooth will now need a filling, crown, or root canal to be properly treated. If you wait too long, you might lose the tooth altogether. Some people are more susceptible to cavities than others. So if you have never have a cavity and still don’t floss, keep reading anyway.
Flossing prevents GUM DISEASE. The plaque building up between your teeth not only causes cavities, but initiates an inflammatory process in the mouth. It starts with gingivitis, or simply inflammation of the gums. The gums will appear more red in color rather than pink, especially right along the gumline. They will bleed easily as well. If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, you likely have gingivitis.
Gingivitis is reversible, but left untreated it will progress to periodontal disease, or periodontitis. When this occurs, the bone holding the teeth in place will start to shrink away. Periodontal disease is not painful so you won’t notice it and it progresses slowly in most cases. The effects of not flossing are cumulative, meaning if you didn’t floss in your 20s, 30s and 40s, you might start to lose some teeth by your 50s. Here’s the worst part- periodontal disease cannot be cured or reversed. Regular dental visits and periodontal therapy can slow down or stop the progression, but your mouth will never return to the way it once was.
3) Flossing helps to prevent BAD BREATH. All dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants will tell you there is something we call “perio breath.” It’s the smell of someone’s gums who has periodontal disease and poor oral hygiene. The smell is produced by the bacteria in your mouth who are having a feeding frenzy on all the debris left on your teeth. It’s smelly, it’s gross, and it’s preventable!
4) Not flossing COSTS YOU MONEY. The consequences of getting cavities and/or gum disease can make a big dent in your wallet. Fillings, crowns, root canals, extractions, implants, gum therapy, etc. are not cheap. If you have dental insurance, you might get some coverage, but will still incur significant out-of-pocket expenses. The cheapest way to take care of your teeth is through prevention- brush and floss regularly, visit your dentist and hygienist at least every 6 months, and have necessary x-rays taken when appropriate. This is especially important for those without dental insurance because any dental treatment they need will cost a lot more money out-of-pocket.
5) Flossing makes you SMARTER! Well, I’m not sure if that one is true, so just floss for reasons 1-4.
Need to see a dentist? Dr. David Scardella of Center for Progressive Dentistry in Duxbury, MA is accepting new patients. Browse our website, take a virtual tour of the office, read patient reviews and testimonials, and request an appointment today! 781-934-9444