When you visit your Yaletown dentist for your bi-annual checkup, there is one question you can almost guarantee they will ask you. While you might cringe and hope they don’t, know they are only asking about your regular flossing habits because they care about you and your oral health. For many adults, the answer generally isn’t a resounding “I floss every single day!” Many people follow the recommendation to brush their teeth at least twice a day, but few follow the recommendation to floss once daily.

What many non-flossers don’t realize is that flossing plays an important role in your overall oral health and should not be neglected. Brushing cleans the tops and the outer surface of your teeth, but a toothbrush is unable to clean between your teeth. Floss is considered an interdental cleaner—meaning that it was specifically designed to clean the tight, hard-to-reach spaces between your teeth and the gap between the base of your teeth and your gum line. When you use antimicrobial mouthwash, you are killing the bacteria that causes plaque, but mouthwash and brushing can’t remove the stubborn plaque and pieces of food that get stuck in these hard to reach places.

Here are three reasons why flossing once a day should be an important part of your daily mouth maintenance.   

Flossing and Brushing are More Effective Together

When you brush your teeth twice a day, you are doing a lot to maintain your oral health, but you aren’t getting the optimal cleaning that you could be. This is where flossing comes into play. Floss was specifically designed as a way to provide a deeper clean, removing plaque from between your teeth and under the gum line. It is recommended that you floss prior to brushing your teeth, as this will make brushing your teeth more effective. When you combine flossing with brushing, you will get a more thorough clean that will provide you with more satisfactory results.

Flossing Protects Your Gums

When you understand how your teeth are situated within your gums and jaw, you have a better understanding of how important flossing is to your oral health. At the root of your mouth are both the lower and upper jaw bones. The jaw bones are essential to anchoring the teeth by their roots. Both the bones and roots are then covered by the soft, sensitive tissue of the gums. It is this place where both the gums and teeth meet that flossing is vital. Tiny pieces of food can easily get caught in these areas.  This plaque will harden to form tartar over time. Excessive tartar buildup can eventually lead to gingivitis—red, swollen gums that are the first indication of gum disease. If left untreated, the bacteria-laden tartar and plaque can spread even deeper, resulting in periodontitis—severe gum disease and bone loss around the teeth. Therefore, flossing is vital to remove any food and plaque that gets lodged in these spaces, working to prevent more serious issues from developing.

Flossing Works to Prevent Other Diseases

The effects associated with tooth and gum disease don’t just stop with discolored teeth, discomfort, or even bad breath. Through extensive research, it has been discovered that the bacteria commonly found to thrive in an unhealthy mouth can also have adverse effects on the rest of the body. These bacteria can cause heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory illness. This has become such a major concern among health care providers that in 2003 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initiated public health initiatives to address oral health as a step toward addressing these potentially life-threatening systemic diseases.

In fact, in the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death and over 25 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes. Because periodontal disease contributes to these other problems, it becomes that much more important to floss and improve your overall oral health. Flossing only takes a few minutes every day and can have huge implications for your long-term health.

Now that you know and understand just how important it is to incorporate flossing into your daily oral hygiene routine, find a way to make it a habit.  Incorporate flossing into your routine so that when you go to see your Yaletown dentist you can confidently answer their question about how often you floss!