14/09/2015 10:54 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Don't Floss? This Might Change Your Mind

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Part of female face. Young woman smiling girl cleaning her white teeth with dental floss on blue. Daily health care. Studio shot.

I have commonly heard my patients complain that their floss smells terrible after usage. One of them brought his floss to the clinic and showed me the usage, thinking that it was probably the wrong method. Oral cavity is the most abused of the cavities and the most neglected. There are remarkable awareness campaigns launched towards daily brushing, however, there is little or no information on flossing. The way most of us brush, the best of toothbrushes cannot reach the spaces in-between your teeth. Spaces can be tight or open, but every mouth has spaces where either plaque film gets attached or food debris gets trapped. Ideal mouth situations are to have the tightest of contacts with adjoining teeth. However, most mouths have poor teeth contact with adjoining teeth and there is a common problem of food getting lodged between teeth. These inter-dental spaces are caused by pre-mature extractions, resulting in drifting of remaining teeth on vacant side leading to captive areas where food can lodge. Loss of opposing tooth also cause teeth to over erupt and leads to opening of contacts with adjoining teeth. It is not a myth, thus, when we state that you cannot reach 40% of your teeth surface with brushing alone.

The inter-proximal areas or the areas between two teeth are protected and cannot be reached by brushing alone. As per literature, Gum disease (Periodontitis) has a positive correlation with overall health; be it cardiac condition, diabetes, pre-term or low birth weight babies. Plaque, a sticky substance loaded with bacteria builds up between teeth causing irritation to gums, swelling and leads to early bleeding.

"It is not a myth, thus, when we state that you cannot reach 40% of your teeth surface with brushing alone."

In addition, bacteria which grow unhampered produce bad breath causing social stigma. The American and the British Dental Association both recommend daily use of dental floss, in addition to brushing. Flossing is the ideal answer for reversing initial stage of gum disease. Flosses come in a wide range; made from nylon filaments or plastic monofilaments, waxed or un-waxed, thick or thin and even flavoured. However, the choice of inter-dental cleaning method has to be tailored according to every individual's teeth and areas where lodging occurs. In some people, flossing has to be done in conjunction with the use of inter-dental brushes, which are now easily available in India.

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