Many patients dread receiving that phone call from the chipper receptionist reminding them that their 6-month check-up is due. Not only is it painfully awkward when the hygienist asks questions that you are expected to answer with her fingers in your mouth, but the dreaded flossing lecture always comes up. So why is it that dental professionals urge better flossing habits so frequently?
For one, flossing promotes better oral health. While brushing teeth is necessary to remove bacteria and food deposits that accumulate into what is called plaque, toothbrush bristles simply cannot reach into the space between your teeth. Consequently, plaque buildup can harden with time and exposure to air, turning into hardened tartar. Once tartar is formed, no amount of brushing or flossing will be able to remove it from your teeth. That is why it is so important to come in for your 6-month check-up! Hygienists use special instruments that can get the tartar off before it builds up near your gums and infects them. Infected gums are commonly referred to as gingivitis and are characterized by redness, swelling, pain, and bleeding. When gingivitis goes untreated, it can lead to other oral diseases that cost hundreds of dollars to contain, and even then, their effects can be permanent.
Many people complain that even though they brush their teeth regularly, they still get cavities. Removing the plaque that accumulates interproximally can serve to prevent cavities from forming in between the teeth. In fact, interproximal cavities are the most common form of cavities, which can be easily prevented by flossing regularly.
Flossing ultimately serves as a preventative measure to these oral diseases. When done properly, flossing can remove the bacteria and plaque before it ever develops into something more serious. So, if you’re hoping to have no cavities or expensive-to-fix oral health problems at your next check-up, be sure to floss!