Historians and anthropologists have found evidence that people in prehistoric times cleaned between their teeth with different devices. For example, evidence of small wood sticks and horse hairs have been found between teeth, revealing that our ancestors were innovative in their oral hygiene practices. Although we now have more advanced materials to keep our teeth and gums clean, less than one-third of Americans floss daily. Yet, flossing is critical to preventing what some researchers call the silent epidemic.
To learn how Trident Dental can help you prevent tooth decay and gum disease, schedule an appointment for a comprehensive oral examination and professional teeth cleaning.
Dental Plaque and Oral Health
Dental plaque is a sticky film that forms on everyone’s teeth. It results from bacteria in your mouth mixing with carbohydrates found in foods. Bacteria in plaque create acids that can create tiny holes in tooth enamel, known as dental cavities. Additionally, these acids can lead to gum inflammation and eventually periodontal disease that destroys the bone supporting your teeth.
Plaque begins as a soft, odorless, and colorless substance that sticks to all tooth surfaces. After a few days, plaque hardens to form what dentists call calculus or dental tartar. Tartar adheres so tenaciously to teeth that it requires professional cleaning for removal.
The Importance of Flossing
Dental plaque forms on all five surfaces of each tooth. Fortunately, you can remove plaque as long as it remains a soft film. Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help prevent and remove plaque from teeth. Crispy foods such as celery, apples, and carrots are beneficial in physically removing plaque from three of the five surfaces of your teeth. However, regular tooth brushing is the most essential method of plaque removal from these surfaces.
You can clean three surfaces with toothbrushing: the chewing surfaces or tops of your teeth and the front and back surfaces. However, the problem remains with cleaning the sides of your teeth that come into contact with adjacent teeth. Plaque can form here, which causes gum inflammation and cavities that require more extensive dental treatments to restore your teeth.
The only way to remove this plaque that forms between your teeth is by using interdental cleaning devices such as dental floss.
When to Floss
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing your teeth twice daily for two minutes with a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. However, the ADA does not recommend one time of day over another for the best time to floss. Instead, it recommends flossing once daily whenever it fits your schedule. While it is most important to floss at least once, many dentists recommend flossing at night to minimize the effect of the dry mouth you have while sleeping.
Flossing at least once a day finds universal agreement among dentists. Flossing before or after brushing finds advocates on both sides. The ADA states that both are acceptable as long as you floss thoroughly. However, a recent study found in the American Academy of Periodontology journal reached a different conclusion.
This study found that flossing before brushing reduced the dental plaque between teeth more than flossing after brushing. Additionally, the preferred sequence had the benefit of increasing the fluoride concentration of interdental plaque. While flossing before brushing may have its benefits, all oral health care professionals agree that what is most critical to oral health is flossing at least once each day.
Everyone misses some areas of their mouth when they floss. This is one reason that regular professional teeth cleanings are essential to prevent gum disease and tooth decay. The oral health care team at Trident Dental can help you keep your gums healthy and your smile bright.