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by Dave Gordon, DDS, Logan Peak Dental

I’m sure there aren’t too many things people universally lie about other than whether they regularly floss their teeth. Most people dutifully brush their teeth morning and night but leave the floss to be pushed farther and farther back in the bathroom drawer. The sad truth is that if you aren’t flossing you could leave up to a third of the surfaces of your teeth untouched and exposed to the damage caused by plaque and bacteria.

What’s the big deal? The big deal is that the overwhelming majority of the cavities I see in my practice are on the “flossing surfaces” of the teeth, or in other words, the surfaces of the teeth that touch each other. Not to mention the damage plaque and bacteria inflict on the gums in between the teeth, which leads to gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Closeup of mouth and floss

I get it though. Developing a flossing habit is difficult, and many unsuccessful attempts have left you wondering if this is something you will ever be able to do on a regular basis. Well have no fear, my friends. I’m going to give you a few tips and tricks, that if you try them out for one month, you will be well on underway to being a consistent flosser.

But first, I want you to try something. Get a piece of floss and a mirror. A magnifying mirror is best, but even just the mirror in the bathroom is OK as long as you can get really close. Now floss and watch what is coming out from between your teeth. Gross right? That stuff has been there since the last time you flossed. Eww. How’s your breath? Could it be fresher? Try giving that floss a sniff. Need I say more? And all that blood gushing from between your teeth is because your gums hate plaque and when they are forced to share the same space, they get angry, red and swollen, causing them to bleed at the slightest touch. Ready to make flossing a habit?

  1. Floss in the shower: Yes, it’s a little unconventional, but hear me out. Put a spool of floss or a bag of flossers on the shelf in the shower. That way, it’s in plain sight where it can remind you to do it. It’s in a place that you are often, if not daily, and it’s not a bad place to spend an extra couple of minutes flossing. This one tip alone is the gateway for many people to develop the habit. Try it.
  2. Make floss accessible to you: Put a bag of flossers in the center car console, next to where you sit to watch TV, in your desk at work or anywhere else you could easily floss, should the thought hit you. Once you train your brain to think about flossing, you may think to do it at somewhat unconventional times. Obviously, the only way you floss is if you have it available to you when the thought hits. Make it happen.
  3. Talk to your dentist: Your dentist may have other tried-and true ways to encourage consistent flossing. Your dentist can also prescribe a mouth rinse called Peridex that helps your gums get healthier as you begin flossing regularly. This means less bleeding and sore gums.

When you follow these three simple tips, you will no longer have to lie when the dentist asks you the dreaded flossing question, and he or she won’t have to pretend to believe you.