No excuses: Tips to get you flossing

This article looks at 2 common excuses we use not to floss and suggests tips to help get you in the habit.

There’s plenty of evidence that shows flossing is a critical part of good dental hygiene, so why do so many of us avoid it like the plague? 

Why floss?

“It’s great if you don’t get food stuck between your teeth, but flossing does so much more than simply remove food,” says Dr Mark Psillakis, Executive Clinical Consultant with Dental Corporation and an Associate Dentist at Bexley Dental in Sydney.
 
“Plaque is a thin film and it has the capacity to cause decay and eventually cavities. Flossing helps wipe away this film from between teeth, where toothbrush bristles just don’t reach.”

Common excuses for not flossing – and tips to help

1. “It hurts when I floss”

 “This usually means that you’re not flossing correctly or that you’re not flossing often enough and your gums are inflamed. It’s important to use a gentle sawing action to get the floss beyond the contact point of adjacent teeth. This is where resistance is met. Once through that point, the floss should glide easily under the gum against one tooth, move back up against the contact and down alongside the adjacent tooth. You need to be patient and gentle.”
dental floss

2. “I don’t have time!”

“Traditional techniques for flossing require the use of both hands and outstretched fingers to reach the back of the mouth. Consequently, people needed to stand in front of the bathroom mirror and spend time carrying this out. These days there are alternatives such as a forked piece of plastic with a length of floss between the prongs that allows one-handed flossing and doesn’t require you to insert your fingers into your mouth.” 
 
Psillakis says he encourages patients to use these handy flossing tools while multi-tasking – you can even do it while checking emails, reading the paper or watching TV, for example.
 
“If you floss daily, what you’re removing from between your teeth is not debris that is days, weeks or even months old, but rather only hours old, so the idea of flossing somewhere other than in front of the bathroom mirror is not so unpleasant. If you enjoy a hot shower in the evening, try flossing in the shower.”
 
There are also air-propelled water sprays that remove debris and plaque from between the teeth. However, Psillakis cautions, “If you can’t motivate yourself to floss, chances are you won’t motivate yourself to use these.”
Ease yourself into flossing – try flossing half your teeth in the morning and the other half at night at first, or flossing a few times a week before building up to a daily habit.  The sooner you make flossing a regular part of your dental hygiene the sooner you’ll see the benefits. You may even experience a pay-off when it comes time for your next dental check-up.                                                                       

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