Tuesday, November 11, 2014

50 Shades of Floss

More commonly known is that you should brush your teeth twice a day, less commonly known is that you really should be flossing a minimum once a day but ideally 2-3 times a day. I know… I know… who has time for that! It’s the same problem we all have when health gurus tell us we should exercise 4-5 times a week: it's hard to fit in all the things we need to do in the course of week much less a day. I don’t pretend that at this moment you’ll read this and take it as an affirmation to make a unilateral change to your morning and bedtime routine but I hope it will open your mind to the possibility that this simple act could reduce years of possible hardship and keep your teeth young and healthy for your entire life.


So where to start – lets have a multiple choice game (Yes I’m tricking you into getting interested in flossing by associating it with a game – you got me)

1. What percentage of your tooth surfaces are cleansed by brushing?
   (a) 60%
   (b) 70%
   (c) 80%
   (d) 90%
   (e) 97%

2. Flossing cleans how many surfaces of a tooth?
   (a) 1
   (b) 2
   (c) 3
   (d) 4
   (e) 5

3. Which type of floss is better?
   (a) Nylon
   (b) Teflon
   (c) Same

4. A person with wide spaces between their teeth should use:
   (a) Floss that look like a flat wide piece of tape
   (b) Thin floss that looks like a small string
   (c) A shoelace

5. How long of a piece of floss should you use?
   (a) 4-7 inches
   (b) 8-11 inches
   (c) 15-18 inches
   (d) 22-25 inches

The Answers:

1. (a) Brushing takes care of removing 60% of the plaque on your teeth. Flossing takes care of the other 40% and this plaque can't be removed by any amount of brushing or rinsing with mouthwash.

2. (b) A tooth has 5 surfaces – One top, two sides, one front and one back. If you don’t floss it’s like washing your car on the top front and back and just leaving the sides. Doesn’t seem to make sense to do that so that’s why we always stress flossing because it literally doesn’t make sense not to.

3. (c) Nylon and Teflon are two different products that will accomplish the same task.

4. (a) Large spaces are generally associated with recession and root exposure. The flat tape will work better to gently remove plaque on those areas without traumatizing the gums. If your teeth are close and tight then use a thin floss.  There is also Gore-Tex floss that will pass through the tightest of contacts.

5. (c) Using a piece of floss, 15-18 inches long, slide it between the teeth and wrap it around each individual tooth in a C-shape and gently polish in an up and down motion. If you haven’t flossed regularly don’t worry if your gums bleed, that’s normal. If it’s persistent after a few days it could be a sign of periodontal disease.


If you lack the manual dexterity to floss then try soft wooden plaque removers, which look similar to tooth picks, or a two-pronged plastic floss holder. Both allow you to floss with just one hand.

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