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Brad M. Freedman, DDS & Associates
4604-D Pinecrest Office Park Dr, Alexandria, VA 22312

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Why Flossing Is a Must, Not a Maybe

Flossing is a must, but many Americans don’t do it. Brushing can eliminate plaque from the front and back of teeth, but it can’t clean in between teeth. When you don’t floss, one-third of your teeth’s surface does not get clean and you leave debris trapped between the teeth where it can cause significant damage.

When plaque builds up and you don’t floss, it can harden into tartar. Tarter is the hard, yellowish substance often seen at the gumline. Both plaque and tartar contain bacteria that creates an acid that eats away at tooth enamel and causes cavities. Plaque and tartar can also irritate your gums, causing gingivitis. The disease is characterized by red, swollen gums that may bleed when you brush or floss. Gingivitis is curable, but only if you see a dentist and get a professional teeth cleaning to remove the tartar.

Left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can eventually cause tooth loss without dental management. It can also affect your overall health. Numerous studies link advanced gum disease to heart disease and strokes. Diabetics who have periodontal disease have more trouble controlling their blood sugar. The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society says people with periodontal disease are four times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis. People with periodontal disease have bacteria and inflammation in their mouths, which can eventually travel to other areas of the body, causing problems such as respiratory infections like pneumonia. This is only a sample of the diseases linked to poor oral health.

Should Kids Floss?

Dentists tell parents and caregivers that they should floss a child’s teeth when the child has two teeth that touch. Since this can happen as early as age two or three, your child probably won’t have the manual dexterity to floss by themselves until they are about six to eight years old. You can buy dental picks, which is floss threaded on a small stick with a handle. It will make it easier on you to floss for your child and teach them to do it themselves.

Flossing your child’s teeth will help prevent them from getting cavities between their teeth. If your child does develop a cavity, a dentist will fill the cavity in the baby tooth even though the teeth will eventually fall out. Baby teeth hold a place for an adult tooth and they also help your child chew and speak clearly. Most parents want to help their child to avoid needing a cavity filled to restore a baby tooth, so flossing is a must.

Actually, you can begin flossing your child’s teeth before they touch. It will get them used to flossing. Any extra cleaning applied to help remove plaque can only further decrease their risk of developing cavities. The enamel on baby teeth isn’t as strong as it is on adult teeth, so decay between teeth can spread quickly.

How to Make Flossing Fun for Kids

Don’t make flossing seem like a chore; you want it to become a lifelong habit. Your kids will thank you later when they enjoy good dental health throughout their life. While most children don’t take to flossing right away, you can try one or more of these suggestions to motivate them.

  1. Floss your own teeth before flossing your child’s teeth. Children like to imitate their parents and you can lead by example. This will also motivate you to floss daily.
  2. Get an app, like the My Bright Smile by Colgate. It is one of the educational brushing and flossing games that feature a two-minute brushing timer. Kids will learn about oral health by playing games, all while having fun.
  3. Play one of your child’s favorite songs while flossing their teeth. It will distract them and make the experience more enjoyable. You can also make up a song about flossing by changing the words of familiar kids songs.
  4. Reward younger children with a favorite bedtime story for flossing. You can reward older children by letting them watch a favorite TV show or video after flossing. Some parents make a chart to keep in the bathroom and fill it in with stickers each time their child brushes or flosses. The child gets a small reward for filling in a week’s worth of boxes.
  5. Don’t forget to praise your child for flossing. Take them to the store and let them pick out their dental picks, toothbrush and toothpaste. They will feel they have control over the process and can choose their own products for doing well. There are fun shapes and flavors for kids available with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance. The seal will ensure the product works as promised and is safe to use.

How to Floss According to the American Dental Association (ADA)

According to the American Dental Association, you should use the following technique to floss once daily:

  1. Cut off at least 18 to 20 inches of floss and wrap it around one finger, pulling taunt. Wrap a small amount around the other finger. This finger will hold the dirty floss so leave an inch or an inch and a half free to work with.
  2. Take your thumbs and guide the floss between your teeth, using a new section of the floss each time. Don’t jab the floss into your gums. Instead, hold it in a C shape to scrape the insides of the teeth.
  3. Don’t forget the backs of your last molars. Discard floss and rinse to remove any food particles the floss pulled out.

If your teeth are tight against each other, used waxed dental floss, it will go in between your teeth easier. However, traditional floss isn’t your only option. Floss picks have a taut piece of floss with a small handle. You can floss with one hand if you have limited manual dexterity. You could also use an interdental brush, which is a small, thin brush you use to clean between your teeth. If you have braces or a dental bridge, your dentist may suggest an air or water flosser.

At Brad M. Freedman, DDS & Associates, we’re happy to answer your questions about flossing products and techniques.

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Brad M. Freedman, DDS & Associates

4604-D Pinecrest Office Park Dr, Alexandria, VA 22312

(703) 940-1886

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