When you visit your hygienist, one of the questions they will ask you is, “How often are you flossing?” For a lot of patients, the answer may be, not very often or never.  Flossing is one of the most overlooked parts of the oral hygiene regimen at home.  We know you hate it, but flossing is one of the most important things you can do to preserve the health and esthetics of your smile!

Unlike a toothbrush, which cleans the tops and outer surfaces of the teeth and gums, floss cleans the tight spaces between the teeth and the gap between the base of the teeth and the gums.  These are places your toothbrush cannot reach.  Bacteria do not need much to continue to flourish in your mouth, so small amounts of plaque, food, and calculus that remain lodged between the teeth present an opportunity for these bugs to cause tooth decay.  Daily flossing can remove these things from between your teeth and prolong the life of your teeth.

A healthy mouth can also prevent much more serious diseases, some of which can be life threatening. But if you are still not convinced that you should add flossing to your daily routine, here are 5 reasons why it is very important.

  1. Flossing Prevents Tartar Buildup

Tartar is the hard buildup of plaque that forms around the gumline. Once it is there, it cannot be removed without help from your hygienist.  Flossing allows you to remove the plaque that causes tartar while it is in its early form:  sticky, but soft and pliable.  Since plaque doesn’t harden into tartar until it’s been undisturbed for a period of time, regular flossing can keep buildup from happening.  A key to successfully fighting tartar is to combine flossing with brushing and an ADA approved anti-microbial mouthwash.

  1. Flossing Helps Prevent Other Diseases

Tooth and gum disease can have effects that go far beyond discolored teeth, discomfort, or bad breath. Extensive research has shown that the bacteria that flourish in an unhealthy mouth can harm the rest of the body, leading to heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory illness.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and more than 25 million Americans have diabetes, so if periodontial disease–disease of the teeth, gums and mouth–contribute to these systemic diseases, then a tool that helps improve oral health can play a major role in improving public health.  Flossing is a small, simple step that can have huge implications for your long-term health.

  1. Flossing Can Save You Money

At a time with rising health care costs and diminishing insurance benefits, it pays to take steps to reduce your medical expenses. Researchers have reported that in populations that statistically tend to rely on emergency room care instead of doctor visits, the cost for dental emergency visits can be as much as 10 times the cost of regular checkups over a given time period.  One of the reasons for the cost savings from regular dental visits?  Education that encourages patients to brush and floss daily.

  1. Flossing Protects Your Gums

The places where the gums and teeth meet are where flossing plays its major role. Tiny particles of food can get lodged here, and plaque in this are will harden and over time form tartar.  Tartar buildup can lead to gingivitis:  red, swollen gums that are the first stage of gum disease.  If left unchecked, the tartar and plaque can spread even deeper below the gumline, causing periodontitis:  severe gum disease characterized by sever inflammation and eventual tooth and bone loss.

  1. Flossing and Brushing Are More Effective Than Brushing Alone

Brushing your teeth twice a day will go a long way toward maintaining oral health, you’re not getting the optimal cleaning if you don’t floss. A toothbrush works by physically removing plaque from your teeth with its soft bristles.  Toothpaste enhances the effect of the toothbrush, and kinds that contain fluoride help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth.  But brushing has one big drawback:  A toothbrush’s bristles cannot adequately clean between the teeth or under the gums.  That’s where the floss comes in.  It is a tool specifically made to remove plaque from the tight spaces between the teeth and gums.