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Flossing Helps in the Long Run

Every six months, you visit the dentist for a cleaning — and likely a lecture about the importance of flossing. But if you’re like many dental patients, the advice travels in one ear and out the other — much like, well, dental floss gliding between the spaces of your teeth.

“There is no instant gratification with flossing — that’s the problem,” says Alla Wheeler, RDH, MPA, associate professor of the Dental Hygiene Program at the New York University School of Dentistry. “Patients don’t think it does anything.”

But flossing does about 40% of the work required to remove sticky bacteria, or plaque, from your teeth. Plaque generates acid, which can cause cavities, irritate the gums, and lead to gum disease. “Each tooth has five surfaces. If you don’t floss, you are leaving at least two of the surfaces unclean,” Wheeler explains. “Floss is the only thing that can really get into that space between the teeth and remove bacteria.”

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