A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Flossing: Do you really need to do it?

Photo of young girl flossing her teeth

Despite recent findings, dentists continue to recommend flossing for a variety of reasons.

“Don’t forget to floss.”

You probably have heard this repeated to you throughout your lifetime. Want healthy teeth and gums? Then, remember this step.

Flossing pays a vital role in good dental hygiene. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), cleaners such as floss play a big role in removing plaque and debris from areas that a toothbrush can’t reach.

Amber Ahrens, registered dental hygienist with Family Health Center Ladysmith Dental Center, offers her expertise on the matter.

Still important to your oral health

Ahrens said that although brushing is an effective way of removing the plaque and bacteria from most surfaces on the teeth, flossing is necessary for those hard-to-reach areas and in-between your teeth, where the bristles of your toothbrush don’t fit.

“Plaque removal is a necessity in the prevention of cavities. The bacteria in our plaque eats away at the hard, enamel surface of our teeth and causes cavities,” Ahrens said. “Not only does this plaque and bacteria cause cavities, it causes gum diseases, such as gingivitis and periodontitis. Indicators of these gum diseases include inflammation or bleeding of the gums and bone loss around your teeth.”

The bone loss may cause mobility of the teeth, and possibly eventual tooth loss.

Additional health benefits

Studies are continuing to show more and more that our oral health can affect our overall health.

“The bacteria that accumulate in our mouths and between our teeth aren’t only bad for your teeth and gums,” Ahrens said. “Your mouth is directly linked to the rest of your body. These bacteria can make their way into your bloodstream and to your organs.”

Flossing helps to lower these bacteria levels in the mouth and reduce the risks of heart disease, respiratory disease and can help control diabetes.

Perfect for your whole family

When it comes down to who should floss, her answer is simple: everybody.

“I believe flossing is important for everyone to do,” she said. “I do give special advice to parents of small kids – ‘make time to floss between the two teeth in the back of all four corners (baby molars.)’ If you can get to all of your child’s teeth, that’s a great way to develop good habits – but those molars are especially important.”

Floss picks may be an easier way to begin with flossing in kids.

“I recommend flossing at least once daily. Flossing before bed is the best time of the day to floss,” she said.

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