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Why do we floss? And are there any alternatives?

Let’s face it… many of us know we need to floss, but many of us do not floss.

Why is that the case? Is it because we don’t know how? It’s too hard to reach the back areas? Or is it because we just don’t think we need to as mouthwash will “blast away” all the plaque like “dynamite against germs”?

Why do we floss?

Firstly, we floss because it enables us to remove plaque and food particles in places where a toothbrush cannot easily reach — under the gumline and between your teeth. Because plaque build-up can lead to tooth decay and gum disease, daily flossing is highly recommended.

One of my university lecturers once told me “you don’t have to floss… you just floss the teeth you want to keep!”

Do yourself a favour and let’s get flossing! brushing alone is only doing half the job!

How do we floss?

The following information is thanks to Colgate. It’s an American site, so the measurements are in inches… 18″ is equivalent to about 45cm. I personally think that’s a bit too much. You’d get by with about 30cm… enough to twirl around your index fingers 2-3 times.

To receive maximum benefits from flossing, use the following proper technique:

  • Starting with about 18 inches of floss, wind most of the floss around each middle finger, leaving an inch or two of floss to work with
  • Holding the floss tautly between your thumbs and index fingers, slide it gently up-and-down between your teeth
  • Gently curve the floss around the base of each tooth, making sure you go beneath the gumline. Never snap or force the floss, as this may cut or bruise delicate gum tissue
  • Use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth
  • To remove the floss, use the same back-and-forth motion to bring the floss up and away from the teeth

Common problems that people face with flossing is that they leave themselves too long a piece to work with, which becomes very difficult to maneuver at the back of the mouth. 5cm or so is more than enough.

Are there alternatives to flossing?

I believe very strongly in flossing, but as I said earlier… not everyone flosses. That is why interdental brushes such as Piksters were formed. Piksters come in different sizes from size 0 to size 7. The smaller piksters are very good for general use, whereas the larger piksters are good for patients with braces or larger spaces due to periodontal disease.

This video link (which I have nothing to do with!) gives you an idea of how they work.

What about toothpicks?

Toothpicks are very thick and rigid. Although toothpicks as their name describes, are useful in ‘picking’ food debris from teeth, if used improperly by wedging them in between teeth, will create spaces. This damages the gums and supporting tissue of teeth, resulting in gum disease in the long term.

An American dental report states:

“Toothpicks should be used only when a toothbrush or floss is not available, for example, when you are in a restaurant and have food trapped between teeth,” explains April Grandinetti, D.D.S., a general dentist. “Toothpicks that are used overzealously can damage tooth enamel, lacerate gums, and even cause a broken tooth in severe cases. People who have bonding or veneers can chip or break them if they aren’t careful. Overly aggressive use of toothpicks can severely wear the roots of teeth, especially in cases where gums have pulled away from the teeth and leave teeth with root surfaces exposed, notably in the elderly.”