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flossing

Dental Questions: Why do my teeth shred floss?

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Dental Questions: Why do my teeth shred floss?

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Shredding or tearing floss is a common (and annoying) obstacle to keeping your teeth clean. Having to constantly switch to a new piece or use a frayed length of floss gets old fast. What could be causing your flossing woes? Take a look!

Between every two adjacent teeth exists a contact where they touch each other at their widest points. This space should be smooth and flowing, without any ridges or sharp corners. If you are shredding floss, there must be some sort of edge in this area that is disrupting the floss fibers. Many times, this is the result of a filling placed between two teeth that needs to be smoothed out. Small pieces of excess filling material, called flash can become dislodged and create an edge that tears at the floss fibers. The solution to this problem is to have a dentist smooth out or (in more drastic situations) replace the filling, creating a more anatomically correct shape. 

Floss can also shred due to food, tartar, or other debris lodged in between teeth. Tartar, in particular, is rough and irregular, creating a surface that easily tears at floss fibers. The solution to this problem is to have a dentist clean the affected teeth, and return for normal dental hygiene appointments. When combined with regular cleanings, good flossing technique will remove stuck food and prevent the formation of harmful tartar in the future. 

Flossing every day is one of the easiest and most beneficial additions to your home hygiene routine. Even if your teeth shred floss, we urge you to continue to use it daily to help maintain the health of your gums and bones. If you would like to know more about flossing, brushing, oral health or any other dental topics, please give our office a call!

 

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Dental Questions: Do I REALLY need to floss every day?

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Dental Questions: Do I REALLY need to floss every day?

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Do you actually need to floss every day? Yes! Flossing is one of the most beneficial habits you can add to your daily routine. It is associated with lower rates of gum disease, fewer cavities and lower lifetime dental costs. However, you can only reap these benefits if you floss every single day! Sporadic or intermittent flossing still allows for bacterial growth, tooth decay and eventual dental disease. 

When you use floss, you are targeting the spaces in between the teeth, at/below the gum line. The primary goal is to remove any plaque or food that has accumulated in these areas throughout the day. Plaque is a primary concern, as it plays a major role in the gum disease process. Left undisturbed (unflossed), it only takes about 24 hours for plaque to mineralize to tartar. Tartar cannot be removed, dissolved or displaced with anything other than a professional dental cleaning. Eventually, Tartar will lead to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (irreversible bone loss around the teeth). Stuck food between the teeth can also lead to tooth decay. Sugary and carb heavy food will lodge itself between the teeth, sit up against tooth enamel, and eventually develop cavities.  

The proper way to floss. After going under the tooth contacts, make sure you thread the floss down the gums and around the teeth in an up-and-down motion. 

The proper way to floss. After going under the tooth contacts, make sure you thread the floss down the gums and around the teeth in an up-and-down motion. 

Tonight, when you're getting ready to go to bed, do a quick experiment. First, brush your teeth thoroughly for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste. Afterwards, floss between every tooth. Take note of all the gunk you get out even after brushing- it may surprise you! If you would like to know more about brushing, flossing or generally keeping your teeth clean, please give our office a call.

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Dental Questions: What Should I Use to Floss my teeth?

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Dental Questions: What Should I Use to Floss my teeth?

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From wax floss to water flossers and dental picks, there are a number of products on the market that you can use to clean between your teeth. If you have struggled with using traditional floss in the past, you've probably considered switching to another method. Generally speaking, all types of accepted dental flossers do a satisfactory job of cleaning between the teeth. Take a look to find out what type of product is best for your specific needs!

The most common method of cleaning between the teeth is via dental floss. Countless research papers show that using floss once a day between the teeth helps prevents cavities, gum disease and the growth of bacteria in these areas. If you have had issues with using floss in the past, you may have more success with handle flossers like the Reach Access Flosser. These products are easier to manipulate in the mouth and provide the same cleaning motion as traditional string floss. If you still want to use regular floss but find it shreds between your teeth or hurts your gums, consider switching to a waxed floss like Oral B Glide. No matter what type or brand, always floss in an up and down motion, bringing the floss against one tooth, down to the gum level and back up, then repeating this motion on its neighbor. 

Some patients will prefer pick or brush type flossers over traditional string floss. In fact, research shows that individuals with severe recession or large spaces between their teeth will benefit more from products like the GUM Proxabrush than traditional floss. The key is that it still needs to be used once a day on every tooth. With these products, it is important to make sure that you are not traumatizing your gums or causing prolonged bleeding. This can be a sing of erosive wear that can lead to more recession. 

Water flossers like Waterpik can also be used to clean out plaque, bacteria and food from in between the teeth. A side benefit is their ability to clear out packed-in food from the pits and grooves of the tooth biting surfaces. The biggest concern with these products is that they can be quite abrasive to the gums and dental enamel. Be aware of the water stream strength and tip you use, particularly if you are using a water flosser every day. Also, never add anything other than water to the flosser's tank without consulting a dentist first. 

The type of flossing method you use is largely a matter of personal preference. The most important part is that you are cleaning between your teeth once a day, every day. Flossing daily takes about a minute of your time but can save thousands of dollars long term. For more information on oral hygiene, flossing or toothbrushes, please give our office a call!

 

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Dental Questions: Does the order of brushing and flossing matter?

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Dental Questions: Does the order of brushing and flossing matter?

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One of the most common oral health questions dentists receive from patients is the proper order of brushing and flossing. We are here to assure you that there is no recommended order to a standard oral health regimen. As long as you are brushing twice a day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily, you are experiencing all the benefits of basic home oral hygiene. Dentists typically recommend brushing once in the morning and (definitely) once right before going to sleep/after your last meal. Flossing can take place at any point throughout the day, so long as it happens before you go to sleep. 

Beyond these suggestions, you may want to consider these options as well:

-Brush in the morning before breakfast. Brushing right after a meal can actually damage dental enamel due to the acidic affects of digested carbohydrates and the abrasive nature of toothpastes. 

-Using an alcohol rinse like Listerine after brushing can limit the fluoride activity of toothpaste. If you are at a high risk for developing cavities, consider switching to a fluoride rinse like ACT. 

-Chronic non-flosser? Consider keeping a bag of handle flossers in your car. It's a great reminder to keep those teeth clean!

-While sugar-free chewing gum can help clean/protect teeth, it is no replacement for brushing and flossing. However, a sick of gum after lunch or dinner can help dislodge food and stimulate protective salivary flow. 

We hope you found this guide helpful! If you have any other questions on oral hygiene, flossing, brushing or toothpaste choices, please give our office a call.

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Examining the Anti-Flossing News

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Examining the Anti-Flossing News

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If you've been on the internet in the last month, chances are you've seen the AP article titled "Medical Benefits of Dental Floss Unproven." In this article, the author postulates that as the Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services dropped flossing from its dietary recommendations, it comes to light that there is little to no scientific evidence that flossing is beneficial to oral health.

In dissecting this article, it is important to understand why dentists recommend flossing. The primary goal of flossing is to physically remove bacterial film (plaque) from the pockets between the gums and the teeth. As a secondary action, floss can dislodge food that gets stuck between teeth and help prevent decay. Floss cannot remove hard bacterial film (calculus/tartar) nor can it clean deep periodontal pockets. That being said, regular flossing will help prevent the development of these conditions to begin with. 

It becomes clear that the author of this story does not have a solid understanding of periodontal disease, oral health or scientific studies. One of the main points of the article is that there aren't any quality scientific papers that show the benefits of flossing. This fact more-so highlights the high costs and extreme difficulty in performing a study of this nature. Much of scientific research pivots on having reliable metrics and a large enough sample to get valuable data. Since flossing is so universally accepted in the dental community, securing the millions of dollars necessary to perform this study would be nearly impossible. 

Furthermore, the author argues that any evidence on flossing points to its benefits in reducing bleeding gums, removing plaque and stopping gingivitis. He seems to view these attributes in a vacuum, when in reality they are all part of the periodontal disease process. Plaque, when left undisturbed, eventually hardens into tartar. This then causes an inflammation of the gum tissue known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is responsible for the bloody, puffy and sensitive gums that many patients experience. With time, the inflammation spreads to the bone surrounding the teeth and causes it to recede creating deep pockets. At this point, the disease is called periodontitis. While it is true that floss will not reach the bottoms of these deep pockets, any reduction in bacterial load is beneficial and crucial to the treatment of periodontal disease.

The author is quick to note that "early gingivitis is a long way from severe periodontal disease" and that "severe periodontal disease may take five to 20 years to develop." What he fails to mention that slight or moderate periodontitis can develop much quicker (we usually see the first signs around age 30) and that the technical "severe" periodontal disease is a debilitating condition marked by loose teeth, chronic bad breath, pain and tooth loss. This is the exact same disease that started out as gingivitis. Why wouldn't you do everything in your power to mitigate this problem from the start? 

If you would like more reasons to keep flossing, just read any statements made by the ADA, the California Dental Association or the American Academy of Periodontology. The dental community shows unanimous support for the regular, daily use of dental floss. Furthermore, evidence shows that controlling periodontal disease is associated with less heart disease, better glucose control in diabetics and better outcomes in at-risk pregnancies. Flossing is an important part of your oral health home care! If you need any more information on the benefits of flossing or instructions on how to floss, feel free to contact our office!

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Dental Questions: Why do my gums bleed when I floss?

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Dental Questions: Why do my gums bleed when I floss?

An example of proper flossing technique.

An example of proper flossing technique.

Gums bleeding while flossing is a frequently recorded complaint at every dental office. Many patients are turned off from flossing as it becomes painful, messy and inconvenient. However, it is important to understand that your gums are probably bleeding because you need to floss more often. 

Plaque accumulates in the spaces between teeth because toothbrushes do a poor job of reaching these areas. As plaque settles at/below the gum line, the tissues there become inflamed, thin and ulcerated. As you floss, you are both eliminating the plaque and bacteria from these areas and temporarily aggravating the  gum tissue (hence the bleeding). Over time, the absence of buildup will allow the gums to heal and rethicken, stopping the bleeding. 

A knee-jerk response to bleeding on flossing is to floss less often or less vigorously. While you may be physically cutting the gums with floss, a proper technique will avoid this. Make sure you thread the floss in between the teeth and move it up the side of each tooth at each contact. Try to "cup" the floss around the teeth and allow it to go slightly below the gum line. This will maximize effectiveness and minimize gingival inflammation. If you would like to know more about flossing, oral hygiene or dental cleanings, please contact our office!

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How To Floss

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How To Floss

While flossing is mostly foolproof, there are a few pointers to keep in mind. Floss is primarily used to remove plaque from the interdental space. For it to work efficiently, floss needs to contact the tooth, hug it, slide down below the gum level and be brought back up. In each space, make sure to clean both the more forward and more backward tooth. In contrast, flossing without contacting the teeth only removes stuck food and doesn't impart the full benefit. If you're short on time or juggling a busy schedule, consider keeping a pack of flossers in your car for the morning commute.  Remember to use floss daily, along with brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste!

For a quick refresher on all our homecare information, here's a short video our office put together: 


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Dental Questions: Are water flossers a good substitute for dental floss?

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Dental Questions: Are water flossers a good substitute for dental floss?

Water flossers (commonly known as “Waterpiks,” though that is a name brand) are typically marketed as being a convenient replacement for traditional dental floss. However, they can’t remove plaque and bacteria as thoroughly or completely as threaded floss. Overall, no product rivals the benefits of getting a physical object between the teeth and mechanically removing buildup. Still, a water flosser can be a great addition to your existing home care regimen. They are particularly good at removing packed-in food that your toothbrush can’t dislodge. Patients with gum disease will typically see the most benefit from a water flosser. The lowered height of gingival tissue allows the water to more effectively penetrate the periodontal space and remove debris.

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Dental Questions: Why Does Flossing Make My Gums Bleed?

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Dental Questions: Why Does Flossing Make My Gums Bleed?

A common complaint among patients is that “Flossing causes my gums to bleed, so I don’t floss.” In actuality, the reverse is true: not flossing on a regular, once-a-day basis will cause the gums to bleed when flossed occasionally. Plaque and tartar buildup beneath the gum surface leads to inflammation which in-turn causes bleeding. When you use a toothbrush, the bristles can effectively clean the tops and sides of the teeth. However, the interproximal space (space between two teeth) is impossible to reach with brushing alone.  Hence, we recommend using some sort of dental cleaning device between the teeth once a day. Floss, Butler Soft Picks, handle flossers and water picks can all be used to “brush” this space. There are a number of great options- even if you don't like traditional dental floss!

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Floss and Flossing Alternatives

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Floss and Flossing Alternatives

As you probably know, flossing is one of the best ways to preserve gum health, prevent decay and ward off tartar and plaque between the teeth. Even though this information nearly universal, only about 50% of Americans floss daily. Where does the discrepancy originate? For many, flossing either takes up too much time or doesn’t fit in with their schedules. Others simply don’t like using dental floss. With this in mind, we wanted to take a moment to introduce different types of floss, flossers and flossing alternatives. We are sure you can find a product that fits in with your dental care needs!

This Oral-B floss is both waxed and has a threader built in. 

This Oral-B floss is both waxed and has a threader built in. 

Although there are many different brands of traditional dental floss on the market, they all generally produce the same results. The real difference comes from preferences in packaging, flavoring and texture. For patients who have found floss too “sharp” or “cutting” to use, we suggest looking for a waxed variety. Furthermore, those with orthodontic appliances, bridges or permanent retainers might benefit from floss with an attached threader tip. While these varieties may be more expensive than using a reusable threader, they offer added convenience and ease of use.

GUM Soft Picks are great alternatives to traditional floss.

GUM Soft Picks are great alternatives to traditional floss.

Beyond traditional floss, there are a number of great alternatives designed to clean between your teeth. Many patients enjoy single-use flossers with handles, as they are portable, disposable and easy to use on-the-go. These devices are also great for kids who don’t yet have the motor skills to use regular floss. Others may prefer flossing picks, such as GUM Soft-Picks. These tree-shaped products expand below the gumline to remove plaque similarly to regular dental floss. Because of their shape, they great for cleaning around orthodontic appliances as well.

A Typical Water Flosser

A Typical Water Flosser

Water flossers such as the Waterpik systems can also be utilized in cleaning between the teeth. Research suggests they are not as thorough or effective as other flossing methods, but they still represent an improvement over doing nothing. There are certain scenarios where water flossers can be a benefit to patients with periodontal disease, but this needs to be evaluated on an individual level. As with any oral hygiene product, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when using water flossers. Regularly changing tips and cleaning water reservoirs prevents the buildup of harmful bacteria and biofilms.


At Thousand Oaks Family Dentistry, we know that our patients are presented with a number of choices in dental home care. We want to give you the information to make the best choices for your personal needs. If you would like to know more about flossing, toothbrushes, toothpaste or any other dental products, please give our office a call!

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