Flossing: What’s the Big Deal?

If you know how to properly care for your oral health, then you know that you’re supposed to brush twice a day (for at least two minutes), floss regularly and visit your dentist bi-annually. Simple, right? Unfortunately, the majority of Americans must not think so. According to a recent story from NPR, 27% of adults lie to their dentists about how often they floss, as found in a survey they conducted. They also found that about 14% of people would rather clean a toilet than floss. And 9% would rather sit in gridlock traffic for an hour. 7% would rather listen to small children crying on a plane. Why is it that we hate flossing so much?

Dr. Joan Otomo-Corgel, a periodontist and president of the American Academy of periodontology, believes that a lot of people don’t floss because “it’s a lot of work.” She was also very surprised that only 27% of survey participants admitted to lying about it, as was Dr. Sally Cram, spokesperson for the American Dental Association (ADA). Via email, Dr. Cram said “given my experience with patients in my practice I thought it would be higher!” A similar study by the dentists’ association found that only 40% of Americans floss every day while 20% never do. While the ADA says flossing should only take an extra couple of minutes each day, while you’re making the practice part of your routine, it can seem like much longer. It’s definitely not a glamourous process and there is no instant gratification (like a fresh feeling after brushing), but the benefits are astronomical.

Flossing assists in the removal of cavity causing plaque that can collect below your gumline and eventually harden into tartar. Sometimes the bacteria causes inflammation, which is the beginning stages of periodontal disease. If left untreated, receding gums, tooth decay and eventually tooth loss can occur. But gum disease is completely preventable with proper oral hygiene: brushing, flossing and professional check-ups. Otomo-Corgel stressed flossing correctly though. While bleeding during flossing is normal, because it means you’re cleaning out infection, pain means you’re doing it incorrectly. For step-by-step instructions on the proper way to floss, check out this guide from the ADA. “Flossing is simple once you’ve learned how,” Otomo-Corgel said. Plus, besides being the best way to prevent gum disease, your dentist can tell when you lie about it. Happy flossing!

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