Brushing and flossing your teeth are an essential part of your oral health. The National Dental Centre Singapore explains the reasons and teaches you simple steps to get a good floss.
When it comes to flossing, many people say "I'll do it tomorrow" because they are too tired or lazy to tango with the floss, particularly before bedtime. But tomorrow – at least where flossing is concerned – seldom comes.
Ms Kimberly Chim, Oral Health Therapist,
National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS), a member of the
SingHealth group, estimates that only three in every 10 people floss regularly at night. "Here, people are always in a rush. They tend to brush their teeth for only a minute instead of the required three minutes. Flossing, which needs manual dexterity, may prove too troublesome."
Why flossing is essential
But flossing, especially before bedtime, is vital. "We encourage flossing, particularly at night, to remove food debris from the day. This is because at night, saliva secretion slows down. Saliva has good bacteria that can combat bad bacteria in the mouth. Its protective function helps rebalance the PH level in the mouth, to control bacteria which damages gums and teeth."
She said brushing cleans only 60 per cent of teeth, but it does not remove bacteria and food debris from tight spots and gum pockets. Floss gets to the parts where toothbrush bristles cannot go – in-between teeth – for a thorough clean.
Plaque (dental bacteria) causes gum inflammation. If left untreated, it can lead to severe gum disease called periodontitis, where
gum tissue weakens and teeth loosen with the loss of the supporting bone structure. "It is very important to prevent these problems by visiting a dentist or oral health therapist at least once a year. We can also advise on the kind of floss, dental aids or brushes to use for your specific condition. We have had patients with gum disease who made big improvements after diligent oral care."
Making a start
To overcome the reluctance to floss, Ms Chim recommends starting small. "Ideally, it should take two to three minutes to do the entire mouth, but give yourself five to 10 minutes when you start.
"Floss your front teeth first, as they are easier to manipulate. Do one gap at a time. Once you get used to it, try another gap until you reach the back teeth. Before you know it, you've done the whole mouth."
Find out the right flossing technique in the next page.