Local Dental Blogs - Philadelphia, PA

Flossing to Fight Gum Disease and Tooth Decay

Most people don’t have much of a problem with brushing. It’s pretty easy to do it right, as long you follow a few best practices.

Flossing, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult. Plus, people might be afraid of flossing if they have sensitive gums. 

Consequently, people might skip over it, thinking that brushing and rinsing are enough to keep the teeth healthy.

However, this is a grave mistake. Flossing might be one of the most important things you can do to fight both gum disease and tooth decay.

What is Gum Disease?

Periodontitis — colloquially known as gum disease — is an infection of the gums that can damage soft structures in the tooth and gums. Eventually, it can lead to lost teeth and bone damage. 

Additionally, periodontitis is a risk factor for heart and lung diseases.

Gum disease starts as less-severe gingivitis. Signs of gingivitis include swollen, sensitive, red, and/or bleeding gums, especially after brushing and flossing correctly.

When gingivitis is left untreated, the infection travels below the gums, worsening the symptoms and leading to periodontitis.

Altogether, it’s estimated that all forms of gum disease affect nearly 75% of the US population.

What is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is damage to a tooth’s surface, called the enamel. The damage, called cavities, most often takes the form of tiny holes in the enamel.

Tooth decay is caused when bacteria in your mouth consume sugars that are left in the area. These bacteria produce plaque (a mixture of bacteria, food particles, and saliva) and acids that damage your teeth. The acids eat away at the enamel and cause damage. Additionally, the plaque hardens into tartar, making it harder to remove bacteria.

When left untreated, the protective enamel can erode and expose the soft and sensitive dentin underneath. Eventually, the acid can make it through the dentin and expose the pulp, which contains the nerves and blood vessels.

Bacteria can then invade the area and create tooth abscesses, which can become dangerous. The infection can spread to other areas of your head and be life-threatening.

Minor cases often require crowns, fillings, or fluoride. Severe cases may necessitate root canals or even tooth removal.

How Flossing Fights Gum Disease and Tooth Decay

Brushing helps keep your teeth surfaces clean and healthy, but it can’t effectively clean out certain areas, such as between your teeth and other regions you can’t see in the mirror. Bacteria and particles can hide in these areas, posing a threat to your smile.

Floss gets into those areas. It cleans out plaque and particles between the teeth both above and below the gumline, places that a toothbrush can’t reach. Consequently, you further decrease your risk of tooth decay and gum disease;

It’s recommended that you floss at least once every 24 hours. Flavored floss can help out if the prospect of unflavored floss is unappealing.

Of course, no one can perfectly take care of their teeth without professional help. Visiting your dentist regularly is vital to address any spots you might miss. At Absolute Smile, we can show you how to floss correctly and provide you other tips on keeping your teeth and gums happy and healthy. All new patients get a free consultation — schedule yours today.

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