“Have you been flossing?” It’s the terrifying question your dental hygienist poses which immediately makes you feel like a toddler being scolded. You know your floss is rattling around at the back of your bathroom drawer along with discarded razor blades and broken hair elastics, but you nod your head “yes” in response. Your excuse for not flossing is simple. Your gums bleed each time you approach them with that minty, wax-coated thread.
It’s important to know that plaque is a combination of germs, or bacteria which stick to your teeth. After 48 hours, it solidifies and becomes hard plaque. This is what causes cavities and infections. If you have hard plaque, your gums might bleed when you go in there with floss. It tastes bad and might sting a little bit, but the more regularly you floss, the healthier your gums will be. If any of the five situations below apply to your life, start flossing regularly, make sure to attend your dentist appointments, and the bleeding should stop after a short while.
1. Inadequate oral hygiene.
When you brush your teeth, you are removing the larger pieces of food from the surface. You’re also disrupting any sugars from adhering to your teeth and gums. Brushing is akin to putting your body in the shower. That’s a great first step, but if you don’t use soap you’re not accomplishing very much. There are five surfaces to each tooth and brushing makes contact with three. Flossing gets into the spaces between your teeth, cleaning the other two surfaces which are often neglected.
2. Poor diet.
If your diet is filled with processed foods, soda, energy drinks, caffeine and constant snacking, so your teeth are exposed to an abundance of sugars and bacteria which will bind to your teeth and gums. When you brush in the morning and before bed, you’re removing much of that gunk, but again, if you’re not flossing, you’re allowing all that sugar to settle in between your teeth and on your gums, inviting cavities.
We’ve all heard the PSA that smoking is bad, but if you are a smoker (quit!), you need to be aware that gum disease, or gingivitis, is a real possibility for you. The toxins in cigarettes weaken your immune system, making it more difficult for your body to fight off infection. By brushing and flossing regularly, removing plaque build-up from your teeth and gums, you’re helping to prevent further gum damage. Gum damage occurs when the tissues cannot repair and heal, which is accelerated by smoking.
Anxiety and stress hormones hinder your immune system from working at full force. When your immune system is lagging, it’s easier for your gums to get infected from a build-up of bacteria. Take a few moments each night for self-care by ensuring your oral hygiene is on point, by flossing. You don’t need dentist bills adding to your stress.
Hormones are on a roller coaster ride throughout pregnancy and the increase in progesterone makes it easier for certain bacteria to grow. Gums may be more sensitive to plaque and can become redder and swollen. It might not be easy to remember with “baby brain,” but taking care of yourself and baby means brushing regularly and flossing at least once a day throughout pregnancy.
Start a new habit for December and get your floss on the bathroom countertop, beside your brush and deodorant.