Common Flossing Mistakes

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Earlier this month we took a look at some of the most common mistakes people make while brushing their teeth. Just as it is possible to make mistakes brushing your teeth, it is also possible to make flossing mistakes. In fact, many people find themselves struggling with flossing correctly since it takes more coordination than brushing. Here are some of the most common flossing mistakes dentists note that their patients often make:

Not Flossing 

One of the most common mistakes people often make is that they simply do not floss daily. Believe it or not, your dentist can tell if you floss daily, occasionally, or not at all. In order to maintain your oral health and decrease the risk of tooth decay and gum disease, the American Dental Association recommends that you floss once a day. However only one-third of Americans floss daily. Out of the remaining two-thirds, 1/3 floss occasionally and 1/3 do not floss at all. Since brushing only cleans about 60% of your tooth’s surface, flossing is essential for cleaning the remaining 40%. Flossing consistently also reduces the likelihood of your gums bleeding when you floss. 

Flossing Too Much 

woman with red gums

Although this problem is not nearly as common as not flossing, the other side is flossing too much. When it comes to flossing, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. This is because flossing multiple times today actually can irritate your gums, causing them to recede. Ironically flossing multiple times a day can actually increase your risk of developing gum disease since gum recession can form pockets along the gum line that collect bacteria. Therefore, it is only recommended to floss once a day in order to remove plaque without causing excess irritation. 

Flossing at the Wrong Time 

Because it is only recommended to floss once a day, the time of day you floss actually does matter. Ultimately, flossing at the wrong time is better than not flossing at all, however you can maximize your benefits from flossing if you floss at the ideal time. The ideal time to floss is just before brushing your teeth at night before bedtime. Flossing before your brush helps to remove excess plaque from between your teeth and along the gum line so that the fluoride from toothpaste can more effectively penetrate these hard to reach areas. Brushing and flossing before bed is also important since your mouth produces less saliva when you sleep. The production of less saliva means that your mouth is more susceptible to harmful bacteria, so brushing and flossing before bed allows you to minimize the amount of bacteria that can do damage while you sleep. 

Smacking the Floss Against the Gums

Another common mistake people often make when flossing is that they let the floss smack against the gums. Unfortunately doing so causes gum irritation, bleeding gums, and possible gum recession. Just like flossing too much can be harmful to your gums, so can allowing the floss to smack your gums. Even though you are supposed to floss along the gum line, the floss should never actually hit the gums at a perpendicular angle. To prevent this from happening, it is recommended to gently work the floss between your teeth, starting at the base of your tooth and working away from your gums. Using this technique minimizes the likelihood of accidentally smacking the floss against your gums. You will also need to make sure that you are using the right type of floss to prevent the floss from getting stuck and then smacking into the gums. 

Using the Wrong Type of Floss

There are various different types of dental floss available and some may work better for you than others. For example, some variations of floss are made to fit between tight spaces for teeth that are close together, while others are specifically designed for flossing between gapped teeth. There are also special types of floss that can be used for flossing around dental restorations, as well as flossing tools that can make flossing around restorations easier. Taking some time to research the best type of floss for your smile will maximize your flossing benefits, while also making flossing easier. Oftentimes, people can struggle with flossing simply because they are using the wrong type of floss and it makes things unnecessarily complicated. 

diagram of how to floss

Forgetting Places

Finally, one last mistake dentists often notice their patients making is that they forget to floss in certain areas. Many dentists note that their patients forget to floss behind the back molars. It is important to floss behind your back molars even though they are the last tooth. In addition, you should also be sure that you are flossing between every tooth, as well as along the sides of every tooth. To find out if you are missing certain places, ask your dentist about your flossing routine at your next appointment. 

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