As a Dental Hygienist, one of the most important things for me to ascertain is whether you have been flossing or not. You actually really don’t have to tell me as I usually get an answer straight away when I look into your mouth. I like to ask, however, because if patients are flossing regularly and it doesn’t look like flossing is occurring, then I need to address this.
Why is flossing so important?
Brushing teeth properly and consistently helps to remove most dental plaque, however, brushing alone cannot remove plaque that is located in places that a toothbrush cannot reach – particularly in between teeth. In addition to removing plaque, flossing also helps to:
- remove debris that adheres to teeth and gums in between teeth
- polish tooth surfaces
- control bad breath
- helps keep gum disease and periodontal disease at bay
Correct flossing technique
The floss should reach 2 – 3 mm under the gum, where the gum is not attached to the tooth. This is where plaque collects and can cause inflammation within 24 hours of not being removed.
Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease and is characterised by inflammation of the gum tissue. It’s caused by plaque build-up along the gums, which leads them to become irritated and swollen. One of the common signs of gum disease is bleeding gums. Other symptoms include: mouth sores, gums appearing bright red, puffy and shiny, and gums that are sensitive to touch.
Gum disease affects most people at some time during their life. It often develops during puberty or early adulthood when hormonal changes are occurring. Risk factors include:
- poor dental hygiene
- general ill-health
- uncontrolled diabetes
- misaligned teeth
- ill-fitting mouth appliances (such as braces and dentures) which may cause irritation to the gums
- some medications (such as the contraceptive pill) can also increase your risk of developing gingivitis
Gingivitis may also occur during pregnancy, when hormones may cause changes to the sensitivity of the gums.
Gum disease has been linked to heart disease, which is another good reason to make flossing part of your regular, daily oral hygiene routine.
If patients have any issues with using floss, a dental hygienist will always find an easier, more comfortable way to floss your teeth.
We encourage parents to floss their children’s teeth, and have produced a handy Kid’s Protocol for parents (which you can print), to guide them with flossing their children’s teeth.
As a hygienist, nothing pleases me more than healthy gums … well, maybe a well deserved holiday!