What's happening in your mouth when you don't floss

It’s no secret that flossing isn’t our favourite thing to do, but what exactly happens when we skip a night… or two?

Whether you skip your nightly floss because you’re too tired, forget, or simply can’t be bothered, you’re not alone.

“Research indicates only 30 per cent of adults floss their teeth, and only 22 per cent do it correctly,” Dr Giulia D’Anna, founder of iDental, reveals.

To floss or not to floss

Giulia explains that some people avoid the task because their gums bleed, however that’s actually a sign you should be flossing more.

“The reason the gums bleed is because flossing isn’t happening regularly,” she explains. “Bleeding is a sign of inflammation or irritation as a result of bacterial acids on the gum. This is typically called gingivitis, the mildest form of periodontal disease, and is often reversible with periodontal therapy and diligent home care.”

But, if you ignore these signs, Giulia says there can be dire consequences. 

“If left, this may eventually lead to periodontitis or gum disease,” she tells. “Periodontitis involves changes in the bone height and support of the teeth, and eventually this can lead to tooth loss.”

Best flossing practice

Because we don’t want to be trying to recover from periodontitis or gum disease, Giulia and her team have come up with the golden rules you need to follow for good mouth hygiene:

1. Use a piece of floss that is 40 to 50cm long. Wrap the floss around each middle finger, leaving about 2 t 3cm between each hand to use between your teeth.

2. Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and index fingers and then slide it gently up-and-down between your teeth. Extend the floss to just under the gum line, without forcing it. Do this for each tooth within that space, taking care of both sides of the v-shaped gum. Most people only go to the tip of the gum, and don't slide the floss under the gum at all. So, if you get that right, you are doing it better than most people.

3. Use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth.

4. If you have braces or bridges (replaced missing teeth with porcelain crowns) in your mouth, you can use floss threaders to get under the braces to perform the same action.

5. For larger spaces you can use little interdental brushes, like Piksters, to clean between the teeth. Another great option is a water flosser, which is like a high pressure water cleaner for teeth. These can be used instead of flossing when spaces are large and difficult to navigate.

“Most people don’t realise teeth have five surfaces - the biting surface, the cheek and tongue side and the two sides between the teeth. With two thirds of all decay happening between your teeth, flossing is an effective and useful way to remove the plaque, especially in between the teeth or under the gum line-places where a toothbrush cannot reach,” Giulia adds.

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