Ask your pharmacist
Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacies, Pearse St and Clonmore, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Proper dental flossing removes plaque and food particles from areas where your toothbrush cannot reach including under the gum-line and between teeth. Daily flossing is highly recommended.
What is plaque?
Plaque is a “furry” coating that forms on and between teeth and it forms due to starches and sugars reacting with bacteria found in the mouth. Plague requires removal daily (via brushing and flossing); if not removed, the bacteria in plaque forms acid which damage enamel and cause tooth decay.
How to floss?
To ensure you get to all areas that are inaccessible by toothbrush and to ensure you do not damage the gums, it is important to use the correct technique. Start with approximately 15 inches of floss. Wind the majority of the floss around each middle finger allowing about two inches of floss to floss with. Grip the floss firmly between the thumbs and index fingers; glide it very gently up and down between the teeth. It is important to curve the floss gently around the base of each tooth and ensuring the floss goes beneath the gum-line to where more food can be trapped. Do not use a “sawing” motion as this will cut into the gums and damage the gums and cause bleeding. Likewise, do not snap or force the floss as this will also damage the gums. It is best practice to use clean sections of floss when moving from tooth to tooth. To remove floss, use the same gentle back and forth movement to glide the floss out and away from each tooth base.
What Type of Floss Should I Use?
To be very general, there is two main type of floss, a flat “tape like” floss and round floss which is thinner (basically like a thread). The “tape” floss is designed to increase contact area with the tooth.
There are other slight differences between different flosses including differences in the material they are made from (nylon or Polytetrafluoroethylene), whether they are waxed or unwaxed (waxed is meant to slide easier between teeth), different flavours, whether floss is stretchable or not, with or without fluoride etc; however these subtle differences do not make too much difference; the most important thing is that you floss at least once daily and that you use the correct technique to remove plaque and debris between your teeth. It is up to your individual preference which brand and type you use.
More about flossing
It is reckoned that 80% of people don’t floss. Brushing only reaches 65% of the surface area of your teeth; flossing is needed to reach the other 35%. If you have never flossed before, your teeth may bleed slightly during the first few times, however this bleeding will stop after a few times as your gums get used to flossing.
For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehans Pharmacies, log on to www.whelehans.ie or dial 04493 34591 (Pearse St) or 04493 10266 (Clonmore).