Oct 10, 2018

What I've Learned About Flossing


So, I’ve been flossing pretty consistently for a number of weeks or months. Sorta lost track since the new job, but I was finally convinced it’s worth my time and inconvenience. But how?

Well, I learned what flossing is and isn’t and it totally changed the way I think about oral hygiene. It was also eye-opening to see how subtle gum disease can be. You know that sucky thingy that dentists use to get excess water/saliva out of your mouth when they’re doing their work? So, it has a reverse mode. My dentist turns it on reverse and blew air toward the edge of my gums and they filled up like parachutes! WTF. They didn’t feel loose, but unbeknownst to me they had already detached from my teeth. That’s the early stage of gum disease. I’ve brushed and use mouth wash twice a day consistently so I thought I was doing pretty okay. This showed me I was wrong.

Flossing isn’t about cleaning.

It’s about disrupting bacteria. That’s it. There is nothing about flossing that cleans your teeth. In fact, brushing isn’t really about cleaning your teeth, per se. In fact, oral hygiene isn’t about cleaning, but flossing especially isn’t.

Let’s reframe things.

Ready for me to ruin your day?

Brushing = making your teeth look pretty

Also removing plaque which is basically bacteria poop. Yuck. All that does is help fend off cavities and remove those nasty coffee stains.

Flossing = keeping your teeth in your mouth

This is disrupting the environment of bacteria between your teeth. It’s not for cleaning your gums or teeth at all. What it’s doing is making it harder for bacteria to thrive on/under your gums. If you’re not flossing, bacteria will thrive. Antibacterial mouth wash will not save you here. Ever hear to biofilm? It’s basically a little barricade bacteria set up to protect themselves while they do their work. Flossing gets up in their face and smashes it up so that the mouth wash can actually get in there and kill the suckers.

Mouthwash = mostly makes your breath smell nice

It’s killing some of the bacteria (keyword being “some”). It’ll kill off a decent amount of bacteria on your tongue and teeth, but it doesn’t really get down in between your teeth under the lining of our gums, so it’s mostly freshening and reducing the chances of your mouth from tasting like glue when you wake up.

Now here’s the kicker: When left unchecked from not flossing, the bacteria will work their way deeper between your gums and teeth, and THIS is what causes teeth to fall out some day. You heard me. Cavities aren’t the real concern when it comes to whether you lose or keep your teeth. It’s gum disease. This can be unnoticeable for years, but over time your gums will silently detach from your teeth and they’ll just sorta… let go… Oops. You won’t see or feel it happening.

So yeah, when you think about it, flossing doesn’t have to be a drawn out process. You just need to rub against the sides of the tooth a bit to shake things up and eventually your immune system will get rid of the bacteria for you. After that the gums will probably attach to the tooth again, that is unless you’ve let it go for too long and get a later stage of gum disease where your gums have receded enough.

You’ve probably heard this part, but plaque isn’t what gives you cavities; it’s tartar. If left alone too long it turns into tartar and you CANNOT brush that off no matter what kind of brush you get. Tartar is what leads to cavities. So brushing is preventative and cosmetic.

Now here’s kicker #2: You don’t need to brush hard, just gently to get that plaque loose so you can rinse it off. Once again, doesn’t need to be too big or drawn out. It’s just about getting as much surface area brushed and as much circular movement as possible per tooth.

The hard truth of the thing: Flossing is not optional if you want to keep your teeth. If you visit a dentist every 6-12 months, tartar is less of a concern and by extension, so is cavities and brushing. But that’s about it.


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