“No, I don’t floss, but I’m really good about brushing”
This is a troubling statement I hear on a daily basis from many of my Rancho Santa Margarita patients. And if the patient happens to not have any new cavities, I can see their confidence growing, perhaps thinking, “My brushing must be so good I don’t even need to floss.”
While, flossing will certainly reduce a person’s risk for cavities, that’s not the only reason your dentist wants you to be diligent with your oral hygiene practices.
As we chew our food our teeth are designed to lean against each other, keeping the majority of food from getting stuck in-between. This by no means keeps everything from getting in between. Some people have bigger spaces than others, and some foods just stick a little more than others.
So there you are, you’ve just eaten and you have a little food in the space in between your teeth. Not even thinking about the obvious particles you can see, there are tiny particles that sit just below the gum level that you might not even know are there, and that brushing alone will not remove.
“Well, I don’t have any cavities,” you may be thinking. That’s good, but that’s not the only issue. The spaces in between those teeth that catch food down in the gums are called gingival pockets. These pockets, when healthy, are between 1-3 mm deep. That’s not very deep, and it’s easy to clean them with daily flossing. When you don’t floss, however, the particles left there are called plaque. Left to build up the plaque hardens and becomes calculus. Not only is calculus too hard to remove with just normal flossing, it is also very irritating to the gums. It can cause gums to become red and puffy, and occasionally bleed when flossing or brushing. This is called gingivitis. Gingivitis can be annoying but it is completely reversible with a good professional dental cleaning and improved home care.