With the weather changing, we all know the excitement approaching – back to school for the kiddos, football games & social gatherings, holidays on the way – but does flossing your teeth fit into your seasonal equation? If it doesn’t, it should! Flossing is vital to oral hygiene and prevention of gum disease. You may think that brushing is adequate, but did you know that brushing alone can leave behind LOTS of bacteria? Put simply, flossing is a way to remove the daily buildup of bacteria on the sides of, and in between your teeth. Our hygienist Molly explains, “The bristles of your toothbrush can only reach so much of the surface and space between your teeth.” While brushing covers about 70% of the tooth’s surface, roughly 30% goes completely untouched. And though this area is small, it is one of bacteria’s favorite places to hide. Bacteria around the teeth causes the buildup of plaque which can lead to tooth decay and eventually submerge itself under the gums. This progression can cause far more serious, and commonly irreversible damage to the teeth, gums and bone. Dental plaque begins as a sticky and colorless film, but, sooner or later, it becomes a yellowish or often brown stubborn substance called calculus, or tartar. And while these colors are commonly seen around town in decorations for the fall, we don’t want them on our teeth! The best way to prevent this is to implement flossing into your daily oral hygiene program. The plaque and bacteria literally adhere to the surface of the teeth and have to be physically disrupted to be broken away from the exterior. This is why using mouthwash is no replacement for flossing. Floss was invented (in its most basic form) during the early 19th century by a dentist named Levi Spear Parmly. He suggested his patients use a piece of thread to dislodge food debris and other problematic bacteria from in between their teeth. Its popularity spread and was adopted more commonly after WWII. Up until the war, floss was made of silk, but the rising price of materials resulted in the switch to nylon instead. Now you can find every type of floss imaginable. From waxed to flavored – the 21st century guarantees there is a floss for everyone! Our hygienist Claranne explains a few different developments and their tailoring to various dental restorations (i.e. crowns, fillings, bridges). “The dental field has made so many advancements and accommodations to different needs when it comes to flossing. Floss Threaders, for example, make flossing under bridges easy, while AirFlosser and Waterpik are the answer to flossing around crowns and larger spaces between teeth.” She also swears by Oral-B’s Super Floss, which is thick and textured, perfect for braces and large gaps between teeth. “For sensitive gums, there are variations of spongy, soft floss,” Claranne continues. No matter what you reach for when it comes to flossing, we just hope that you’ll try it! Flossing correctly can remove up to 80% of plaque, and this can completely change your dental health for the better! When flossing, make sure to wrap the floss around the tooth surface in a “C” shape, and use a rocking, back and forth motion. Claranne reminds us, “Popping the thread in and out is not really cleaning the space.” She also says grabbing a toothpick when out to lunch is not a bad idea for removing stubborn food debris until you are able to floss. For the best results, make sure you are flossing once a day, typically at bedtime, prior to brushing. If you haven’t been flossing regularly, your gums will not be used to it and you may experience sensitivity and bleeding, but be persistent! If you continue to floss every day, the bleeding and irritation will subside in about a month. With 64% of American adults tuning in to watch NFL football these days, it is shocking that only 12% of Americans floss on a daily basis. While these statistics are almost certainly unrelated, maybe the next time you get ready for kickoff, you’ll reach for the floss or Waterpik and think of the benefits. Remember, a smile is the most important thing you’ll wear (even more so than your favorite team’s jersey) – we would love to see yours!