We all know the moment… that moment of panic when our dental hygienist at Martin Taylor Dentistry asks us if we’ve been flossing. Even though we’re generally honest people, this is one time in our lives we may be tempted to tell a big fat lie. “I try,” we respond meekly. No need to tell her the only time we can remember flossing in the past few days was 10 minutes before this appointment. Yet we all know she can tell we’re fibbing! Especially when it takes her 3 hours and a jack hammer to clean the cement-like plaque off our teeth. And in case you weren’t aware, your gums bleeding from flossing is a sure sign you are not flossing enough! So the gig’s up folks! Might as well floss.
Well, This Should Gross You Out!
Hopefully after reading all the reasons why you should floss, it won’t be something you ever forget again! Let’s start with what may be the strongest motivator … being grossed out. Get a piece of floss and floss your teeth. Now smell the floss. Kind of makes you want to heave doesn’t it? Welcome to Why You Have Bad Breath 101! Food left in your mouth, including the food between your teeth and around your gums is a smorgasbord for bacteria! YUCK! The only way to keep your mouth free from becoming a Bacterial Woodstock (and the smell it produces) is to remove the food source! And news flash people, bacteria are small! They can easily find their way between your teeth! Brushing is needed of course, but flossing is like “brushing” in between the teeth and around the gums where a toothbrush can’t reach. Brushing your teeth without flossing is like showering without washing your arm pits!
More on the Bleeding Gums Issue
- Bleeding gums aren’t always obvious and may first show as pink spit, red floss or reddish marks on hard food, like apples.
- It is never “normal” for your gums to bleed, no matter how hard you brush.
- You are right to take bleeding gums and dental health seriously. Bleeding and swollen gums are frequently the first sign of gingivitis.
- Gum disease, left untreated, can lead to infection, tooth loss, bone deterioration and periodontal disease.
- Gum disease is linked to more severe conditions including diabetes and cancer.
Bleeding gums are caused by inadequate plaque removal. Plaque contains germs which attack the healthy tissue around the teeth. This will cause the gums to become inflamed and irritated, which may cause them to bleed when you are brushing or flossing. This is called Gingivitis and is the first stage of gum disease. At this stage the disease can be treated and completely reversed. It is important to see your dentist at the first sign of bleeding gums. He will evaluate your condition and prescribe the best treatment for your case.
Plaque that is not removed will eventually cause the gums to recede from the teeth. Once your gums begin to recede, pockets can form between the teeth and gums. Germs can get trapped inside these pockets, attacking the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Plaque will eventually harden into tartar. At this point, Gingivitis has progressed into the more serious condition called Periodontitis. Periodontitis can cause tooth loss and may affect your overall health.
Okay! So What Do I Use?
Dental floss comes in many forms, waxed, unwaxed, tape, flavored, or on a stick. There’s even a super floss which has a stiff end so you can poke it underneath bridge work. As a general rule, choose what suits you and what you’ll actually use! Place boxes of floss by the TV, computer, reading chair and in the bathroom. Best practice is to floss and then brush your teeth. Floss sticks are convenient, but can make it a bit more difficult to clean around each tooth surface. Another method is using an oral irrigator such as Waterpik; a machine that blasts a stream of water to clean the teeth and gums. Water pics can be very helpful when it comes to gum stimulation, but are less effective in cleaning off the plaque between the teeth. Again, use what feels comfortable to you and use it consistently. One of the most effective ways to stop your gums from bleeding when you floss is to keep flossing!!!
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