Are floss picks better than regular floss? That might seem like an innocuous question, but it’s an issue within general dentistry, and one that our patients at Marcos Ortega DDS in San Diego ask from time to time.
The short answer is that it’s better to use a floss pick than not floss at all. But floss picks only clean a part of the tooth’s surface. We recommend traditional floss or dental tape. Here’s why:
A floss pick holds just a small section of floss stretched in a straight line. But teeth are rounded, with occasional irregularities. A straight length of floss can’t conform to the contours of the tooth as well as traditional floss.
By wrapping the floss completely around the circumference of a tooth, you can more efficiently clean around and just below the gum line. And your fingers are much more precise than a piece of plastic.
We have seen faithful floss pick users who developed decay due to a hairline crack the floss pick missed day after day.
Here is a refresher course on proper flossing:
- Cut a segment of floss about 18 inches long and securely wind each end around your middle fingers.
- Take hold of the floss with your forefinger and thumb, leaving about two inches to work with.
- Thread the floss between two teeth.
- Hold the floss firmly against the side of the tooth and move it up and away from the gumline. You want to clean the space between the tooth and gum without pulling more gum tissue away, so it’s vital to scrape up and out of the pocket.
- Move the floss around the tooth to clean every surface – especially those that your brush can’t reach. You can use a “shoeshine” method if you like. As you use a section of floss, unwind from one hand to a clean piece.
- Some people find it simpler to start on one end of the upper teeth and clean each gap one by one until they reach the end on the opposite side, and then repeat for the lower arch. Whatever method you elect, make sure you clean around every tooth, including the back surfaces of the rear molars.
If you have never flossed before, your gums might bleed the first few times. The bleeding may be due to gum inflammation, the beginnings of gum disease. Keep flossing gently and the bleeding typically stops within a week or two.
It’s important to see us at Marcos Ortega DDS twice a year for a checkup and cleaning, a part of our general dentistry. We also provide cosmetic and restorative dentistry. If you’d like to improve your bite, we offer Invisalign clear braces.
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