Flossing – so much more than just a piece of string!

Wednesday, July 7, 2016

Floss, Floss, Floss! – the repetitive litany that you hear every time you see your dentist.

Most dentists like me will advocate that flossing is a crucial part of your daily dental hygiene regime and quite possibly the most overlooked and skipped activity. It leads to cavities between teeth, gum disease and god forbid the need for extractions in the long term. It also keeps us busy as dentists, as in my case, I would estimate that over 80% of new cavities I see are between teeth and directly related to not flossing.

But don’t worry.. this blog is not about flossing and how it keeps your teeth clean! It is actually about all the other reasons you should floss and why you should not be swayed to use other tools to do the job, such as interproximal brushes or even periodontal tape.

The hardest part about dentistry, both what we do in the dental chair and what you do at home to avoid have to spend too much time in our chair, is that we often have to work in areas that are hard (or impossible) to see and hard to get to.

This is where floss really comes into its own. Did you know that normal floss is a multi-filament piece of plastic and made up of lots and lots of little strands? Each strand is extremely thin and will catch on the slightest bump or irregularity on your tooth. Your tooth on the other hand, in its perfect state, has a smooth, almost glass-like surface that has no projections to catch floss onto. So, when you floss, especially around a new filling or crown, and the floss catches and shreds, and most people have had this occur, including me, it indicates that the restoration margin (where filling/crown meets tooth) is not perfectly smooth and likely going to cause you a big problem in the near future.

What does this mean? Like good wood work, dentistry is made or broken by the accuracy and smoothness of the joinery. Bacteria are very small, about 1/2000th of a millimetre in diameter to be exact, so they can get into the smallest ‘gap’ or sit in the under the smallest ‘overhang’ and breed like rabbits (faster even), this leads to decay coming back around the edges, we call this recurrent decay but in reality it is new decay at the edge of your new filling/crown! Normally in the visible areas of the mouth we can see this as a brown discolouration or ‘leakage’, but you can’t see between the teeth. You have to ‘see’ with your hands, using a piece floss, and what you looking for is floss that slides up the surface of your teeth without catching, shredding or getting stuck!

So, apart from being the best tool to clean between teeth, floss is your way of self diagnosing issues between teeth. If the floss shreds or catches for you then it’s time to investigate further.

Learn more at our Oral Health information nights, they’re fun and free and we’d love to tell you more about the signs and common pitfalls you may face as you travel along the dental treatment journey. Register here.

We can’t wait to meet you!


Posted in: Advice, Dental health, General

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