There’s one moment during a dental hygiene visit that a whole lot of people dread: the moment when the dentist or hygienist asks about your flossing habits.
Some tell the truth. Others dance around the question. Some sheepishly admit the truth and promise to start doing better. And according to a new survey, a good number flat-out lie.
Conducted for the American Academy of Periodontology, the poll found that 27% of American adults admit that they lie to their dentist about how often they floss. This led the Academy’s current president, when asked about it by NPR, to say, “Is that all?”
More than a third of people said they’d rather do an unpleasant activity – clean the toilet, sit in gridlock, do their taxes, listen to crying children or nails on a chalkboard – than floss, even as it can only take a single minute out of the 1440 we have each day to do it effectively.
But time and technique are just the start of excuses, as NPR notes.
The floss is hard to get between your teeth. It makes your gums bleed. It’s slimy. Tiny particles of food are flung onto your bathroom mirror. And there’s no immediate payoff, like the fresh-breath feeling you get from brushing your teeth.
Of course, if your gums bleed when you floss, that’s a sure sign you need to be flossing more, not less. It’s the most obvious sign of gum disease. Ramped up hygiene – usually along with nutritional improvements – is the only way to keep it from progressing to full-blown periodontitis and ultimately raising your risk of tooth loss, as well as the host of inflammatory conditions that have been linked with poor perio health. Think heart disease. Diabetes. Stroke. Cancer. Alzheimer’s. The list could (and does) go on.
But as we’ve noted before, floss isn’t the only option you’ve got for cleaning between your teeth.
- Oral irrigators
Devices such as Waterpik units are great for cleaning between the teeth and flushing periodontal pockets. (Some come with special tips for the latter.) Some studies have suggested they may be even more effective than floss. Add an herbal antimicrobial tonic such as the Dental Herb Company’s Under the Gums for extra disinfection.
- Proxy brushes
As mentioned before, research suggests that these interdental brushes may also be more effective than conventional floss. They come in different sizes, so you’re sure to find one that slides easily between your teeth. With these, too, you can control oral pathogens by dabbing the tip of the brush in an herbal rinse such as Tooth and Gum Tonic from time to time as you brush the sides of your teeth.
A Perio-Aid is a plastic handle that securely holds a toothpick tip at an optimal angle, making it easy to scrape debris from the sides of the tooth, as well as along the gum line. As with proxy brushes, you can periodically dip the tip into an herbal medicament to further help control oral bacteria.
Like flossing, using each of these tools effectively takes just a minute or two, yet the benefits are huge. Think no more bleeding when you brush. Think nicer breath. Think cleaner teeth. Think better overall health.
Image by Patricia H. Schuette