Tooth brushing is a critical component of good oral health. But your dental care routine shouldn’t stop there. To be truly effective, your routine needs to include flossing.
In fact, some evidence suggests flossing is responsible for as much as 40 percent of plaque removal, which is essential for oral health. (“Plaque” is the name for the soft, sticky film of bacteria that naturally accumulates on our teeth as a result of eating and digestive processes. When we skip brushing and/or flossing, this plaque hardens into tartar, which is much more difficult to remove.)
Dentists can stress the importance of flossing until we’re blue in the face (and we do!), but it’s up to patients to make flossing a priority. If you’ve ever skipped flossing or wondered why flossing is such a big deal, we have six good reasons why you should commit to the habit for life. Here’s what happens when you neglect to floss your teeth.
1. It increases your risk for cavities.
Plaque is one of the biggest risk factors for cavities. It doesn’t just form on the teeth’s biggest surfaces; it also congregates between the teeth. So do food particles, which also contribute to tooth decay if left to sit between your teeth. Even the best toothbrush can’t reach every one of your teeth’s crevasses, but dental floss can. Thus, flossing allows you to target the plaque and food particles that would otherwise stay wedged between the teeth and potentially cause cavities to form.
2. It increases your risk for gum disease.
Flossing doesn’t just remove plaque from between the teeth. It’s also the most effective way to eliminate plaque and bacteria near the gum line. When this bacteria is allowed to accumulate, it significantly increases the risk of gum diseases including gingivitis and periodontitis (which, if left unchecked, can contribute to tooth loss).
3. It increases your risk for heart disease.
It might sound implausible, but there’s a proven link between gum disease and cardiovascular disease. This is largely because the gums contain loads of tiny blood vessels. When bacteria builds up along the gum line, it can enter these blood vessels and travel through the body’s bloodstream. The presence of this bacteria in the bloodstream has the potential to harden the arteries of the heart, thereby increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
4. It makes your teeth look yellower.
Keeping the areas between your teeth clean helps ensure the whole tooth surface looks to be the same shade. This makes your entire set of chompers look whiter overall. In contrast, when you allow plaque and food particles to accumulate between the teeth, this darkens the shade at the edges of your teeth and makes your teeth appear yellower.
5. It generates bad breath.
As we mentioned above, when you don’t floss, you allow tiny food particles to accumulate between your teeth. As these bits of food decay, they produce unpleasant odors. This is a major contributor to halitosis (aka bad breath).
6. It’s a slippery slope.
Skipping one flossing session might seem relatively harmless. And it is, in the grand scheme of things. The trouble is that when we allow ourselves to skip flossing one time, it becomes that much easier to do it a second time (and a third, and a fourth, and so on...). It’s better to maintain a consistent habit than to give yourself the opportunity to slack on flossing.
So there you have it: six very good reasons why you should never skip flossing again. If you aren’t a habitual flosser, recommit to a daily flossing routine right now. Your mouth (and the rest of your body) will thank you for years to come.