TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — It is hard to believe something as simple as flossing can have a profound impact on your whole body. Reputable studies have shown daily flossing may increase one’s life expectancy by as many as seven years.
When you floss, you help prevent your gums from becoming inflamed.
When your gums are inflamed, you have a chronic bacterial infection in your mouth. Dr. Donald Reid, Tahoe Dental Artistry said, “This harms your arteries through two mechanisms: the bacteria find their way in to your arteries and hang out (causing plaques), and your body mounts a response to the bacteria in your mouth, causing inflammation, which in turn can cause your arteries to narrow.”
This can lead to a serious immune response such as a cardiac (heart) event or a cerebral (brain) event.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), a toothbrush works by physically removing plaque, a sticky, bacteria-laden film, from your teeth with its soft bristles. Toothpaste enhances the effect of the toothbrush, and brands that contain fluoride help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth. But brushing has one big drawback: A toothbrush’s bristles can’t adequately clean between the teeth or under the gums [source: ADA].
“That’s where floss comes in,” said Reid. “It’s a tool specifically made to remove plaque from the tight spaces between the teeth and under the gums.”
The ADA suggests flossing before you brush also helps make brushing more effective: With less plaque caught between your teeth, the fluoride in toothpaste can get to more parts of your mouth.
PROPER FLOSSING TECHNIQUE
Dr. Reid recommends using unwaxed floss. Before brushing your teeth, measure a length of floss, approximately 18 inches, and wind each end around your middle fingers.
Grasp one to two inches of the floss with your index finger and thumb, then gently glide the floss in between the teeth in a sawing motion.
Do not snap the floss between the teeth, as this can cause trauma to the gum tissue.
Angle the floss so it hugs the tooth in a “C” shape. Gently slide the floss up and down the surface of the tooth, making sure it goes slightly below the gumline (sulcus).
When complete, angle the floss to hug the tooth in the opposite direction, and repeat this step.
When the tooth surface is de-plaqued, the unwaxed floss makes a squeaky sound, as opposed to none when it first slides over the slippery surface of the plaque. “Squeaky clean and into the sulcus” is the goal, according to Reid. It takes 36 hours for the bacteria to grow back after flossing, so by flossing once daily you can beat the bacteria at its own game.
Gum disease raises the danger of heart attack by as much as 25 percent. It increases the risk of having a stroke by a factor of 10.
“It is no longer enough to just keep an eye on trouble spots in the gums. Instead, aggressively controlling periodontal disease will be a top priority for preserving and improving our patients’ overall health and their enjoyment of life,” Reid stated. “In fact, it will mean that if our patients’ teeth and gums are not healthy, we can assume that they are not healthy overall.”