dental flossing

Proper oral care requires both brushing of your teeth and regular daily flossing in order to reduce the risk of gum disease.

Gum disease occurs when the organic tissues at the gum line become inflamed due to the buildup of bacteria caused by the breakdown of food particles that have not been removed properly. This inflammation can spread to the bone that surrounds and supports the roots of your teeth, eventually threatening the tooth’s integrity.

Stages of Gum Disease

Gum disease is not one of these rare diseases that can only be found in medical textbooks. It is actually very, very common and affects billions of people each year. And it doesn’t take long to develop into a real problem, either.

Gum disease progresses in three stages:

  • Gingivitis
  • Periodontitis
  • Advanced periodontitis.

Symptoms of gum disease include swollen, tender, or red gums, or bleeding from the gum line. It can cause bad breath and leave a bad taste in your mouth. Plaque and tartar can build up on the visible surfaces of your teeth, as well as between your teeth.

Eventually, it will cause your gums to recede from your teeth, leaving the teeth loose. Left untreated, it also can cause visible pus to ooze from the surrounding teeth and gums.

The teeth can then become discolored, bent, twisted, and eventually fall out. But that’s not the worst of it. Gum disease also has been tied to other serious health issues, including diabetes and heart disease.

Flossing and Gum Disease

Flossing is when you use thin dental floss to access the areas between the teeth and at the gum line to remove any built-up plaque and release trapped food particles. It is an effective way to reduce the risk of gum disease, as one recent study has proven.

dental flossing

The Cochrane Review, which was released in 2011, used 12 randomized controlled trials. It concluded that people who flossed daily were able to significantly reduce their risk of developing gingivitis, the first stage of gum diseases, especially when combined with regular brushing of the teeth.

Many People Still Don’t Floss

Despite this hard, scientific evidence, many people still do not floss every day. Why? The reasons are numerous.

Some people say they don’t floss because they don’t believe food particles are getting stuck between their teeth. Because they don’t physically see or feel food stuck between their teeth, they don’t believe it’s there.

The problem with this argument is that even tiny, microscopic food particles caught between teeth can break down, cause bacteria to form, and trigger gingivitis. So just because you can’t see or feel them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Everybody has trapped food particles. If you eat, they’re there.

Ignorance Is Bliss

Another excuse many people give is that they don’t know how to floss properly. But this should be an excuse not to do it.

Flossing is somewhat more difficult than brushing, but it’s a necessary part of daily oral health. When you don’t floss and suddenly start, it can sometimes be painful and even cause slight bleeding, which can put people off. But this is because you haven’t been flossing, so the built up food particles and bacteria are being released. Once you floss regular for a few days, these effects should stop. If they don’t, consult your dentist.

Proper Flossing Techniques

To help you get started, here are the proper steps you should follow to correctly floss your teeth daily:

  1. Buy a high-quality dental floss at your local drug store. It can be either mint-flavored or plain, it makes no difference.
  1. Unspool about 18 inches of floss and wrap most of it around the middle finger of each hand, leaving an area of about 5 inches in between.
  1. Grasping the dental floss tightly between the forefinger and the thumb of each hand, fit the dental floss into the gap between each set of teeth, using a rubbing motion to move it into place if necessary.
  1. Push the floss all the way down to the gum line, the move it in a “U” pattern to follow the shape of the space between the teeth.
  1. Holding the floss firmly against the sides of the teeth, move the floss gently down and up. Repeat on the other side of the tooth.
  1. Repeat this process with every pair of teeth until all of the spaces between the teeth have been properly cleaned.
  1. As you go, release more fresh floss so you continually have a clean surface to work with. This helps prevent you from simply spreading the bacteria from one tooth to another.

Pay special attention to the molars, or back teeth, because this is where most bacterial buildup occurs.

Making flossing a part of your daily oral health care routine can substantially decrease your risk of gum disease.

Image courtesy of ponsulak/

Author Bio – This article is a work of Greg Larsen in support of Thantakit International Dental Center, a premier dental center providing quality dental implants and cosmetic work if you’re looking for a dentist in Thailand.