A study released on June 23 revealed that 27 percent of adults lie to their dentists about flossing their teeth. Some dentists believe the actual figure is much higher, based on the condition of their patients’ teeth and gums. The study also found that a third of people dislike flossing so much that they would rather do other unpleasant activities, such as clean the toilet, wash dishes, sit in traffic, or listen to small children crying on an airplane.
The survey was conducted by the American Academy of Periodontology. The AAP surveyed 2,021 adults in 10 major cities across the United States. New Yorkers were the most likely to floss every day. Another study conducted by the AAP found that only 40 percent of Americans floss every day and 20 percent never do.
Flossing removes plaque, a sticky film of bacteria and saliva, from between the teeth and below the gum line. If it is not removed, plaque can harden into tartar. Plaque contains over 500 forms of bacteria. Those bacteria cannot be removed from below the gum line by brushing alone.
Bacteria can cause inflammation, which can lead to periodontal disease. Untreated gum disease can cause receding gums, tooth decay, and tooth loss. Gum disease can contribute to many other health problems, including heart disease and some forms of cancer. About half of Americans have periodontal disease.
Gum disease can be prevented with proper oral hygiene. That includes brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and visiting a dentist for regular checkups and cleanings.
If you have trouble flossing, there are other options besides traditional floss. Proxabrushes are skinny brushes that can fit between teeth, and Stim-U-Dent picks or toothpicks can be used to remove plaque. If your teeth are close together, however, you will need to use floss.
Some bleeding during flossing is normal because it means the floss is clearing out an infection. However, pain is not normal and means you are doing it wrong.