HEALTH

Do You Really Need To Floss? And What Happens If You Don't

Bad oral hygiene can lead to heart disease.

16/06/2017 7:32 PM AEST | Updated 16/06/2017 7:36 PM AEST

Since childhood, brushing our teeth has been a morning and nighttime ritual.

We don't question when to brush our teeth, or why, but when it comes to flossing, it seems to be a different story.

Why should we stick a sharp, spiky object into the sensitive gaps between our teeth? Won't our twice-daily brushing routine be enough?

According to Dr Amos, Associate Dentist at Underwood Dental Care, the reason we question flossing practice is due to our upbringing.

"A big part of it is actually because of education or the upbringing. Kids are then taught brushing is the only way to clean your teeth when in actual fact, brushing and flossing come together," Dr Amos said.

"I guess when we're young, the reason why flossing is not introduced is because it requires a lot of control of your hands and obviously young kids don't have that -- kids aren't doing it very well."

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Although as a general rule, Dr Amos suggests whenever you're brushing you should be flossing, he also explains most of us don't actually know how to floss properly and are not seeing proper results from our hard work, therefore we give flossing up altogether.

"The misconception is you basically stick the floss down the middle of your teeth, and hope for the best -- that's the wrong way to floss," Dr Amos said.

Yep, we've all done that.

"You actually have to go to the details of wrapping the floss around your fingers, insert into your mouth and the motion is, rather than a left or right movement, an up and down motion, going slightly underneath the gums."

Dr Varayini Yoganathan, owner of Australian Dental Specialists suggests seeking expert advice on how to floss so you don't damage your gums.

"Flossing takes a lot of hand dexterity to be good at it, so ask your dentist to show you how to floss your teeth then go home and practice this technique," said Dr Yoganathan.

Luckily there are products you can use to turn flossing from a laborious chore into an interactive activity.

dimamorgan12 via Getty Images
I clean better than you clean.

While Dr Amos recommends mouth wash such as Listerine to remove clingy micro-organisms in the mouth, while Dr Yoganathan suggests a type of 'waterflosser'.

"A Waterpix basically shoots high pressured water between your teeth and disturbs the plaque communities there, it's more fun than normal floss," Dr Yoganathan said.

"If you've ever tried using an electric toothbrush as opposed to a typical toothbrush, it's more interactive so it's easier to be compliant with something that you think is doing a good job and you have an active interest in, like Waterpix," Dr Yoganathan said.

Aside from gingivitis, occurring when bacteria builds up between your teeth causing decay, gum bleeding and gum puffiness, other common problems that occur with limited flossing and unhealthy oral practice include plaque build up, that can harden and become 'glued' between your teeth, and gum disease. It can also, in extreme cases, lead to heart disease.

"Patients who floss are 80 percent less likely to develop tooth decay or gum disease," said Dr Yoganathan.

"People need to know that in this modern day and age, with toothbrushes, fluoride, and water, it's rare to develop decay in front teeth, but areas that aren't touched by tooth products are still at risk."

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