Your General Dentist: What Can Happen if Your Don’t Floss?

Anyone who has visited a general dentist knows that one of the first things they mention is proper brushing techniques. A close second is usually the importance of flossing.

Flossing prevents gum disease

Whereas brushing — which should be done twice daily — polishes the surface of teeth, flossing removes the plaque which can builds up between teeth and along the gum line. Even electronic toothbrushes are unable to reach these areas. Hence flossing is imperative for gum removal. Plaque can cause bad breath and develop into tartar, which is an unseemly yellow brown color, and a pain for a general dentist to scrape off, but this is not all.

Gingivitis

If the bacteria responsible for plaque gets far enough out of hand it will cause the gums to swell, a condition known as gingivitis. Gingivitis may be uncomfortable and cause the gums to bleed. Beyond that if the infection spreads below the gum line, this becomes known as periodontitis.

Consequences of gum disease

Immediate response

Developing gum disease can have severe local consequences around the mouth. The affected area may become very painful to the touch, making eating — among other activities — difficult and unpleasant. If left untreated by a general dentist long enough, gum disease can lead to tooth loss. Tooth loss is a painful process as well. It also can lead to a reduction in the aesthetic value of one’s smile which can be detrimental to self-confidence. Beyond the mouth, gum disease may have surprising and serious effects throughout the body.

Inflammatory and widespread response

The body’s reaction to gum disease is an inflammatory response that can spread from the mouth throughout the bloodstream. As inflammation moves outward, systems essential to a healthy functioning body can be severely affected. Mothers with gum disease are less likely to carry infants to full term. Furthermore, gum disease has been linked to several inflammatory conditions.

These diseases include:

  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Alzheimer’s

The relationship between these inflammatory conditions and gum disease appears to be symbiotic. Therefore, it is hard to differentiate cause and effect. For example, gum disease may increase the risk of diabetes, and diabetics with healthy gums are more likely to have stable blood sugar. Either way, making every effort to prevent the inflammation caused by gum disease is a good move. Floss is the best tool to get the job done outside the general dentist’s office.

Find the right floss

There are several different products which can be utilized to floss. There is the typical spool of floss that comes in a small box with a metal bit to break strands of floss against. Very little floss is necessary to do a good job and these boxes will last a long time. Also available are floss picks. These are useful because the end opposite the floss is great for picking large seeds and bits of food from your teeth (like a toothpick) and can also be used as a tongue scraper. Finally, there are water flossers, like they have at the dentist, on the market for home use.

Conclusion

If flossing is ignored there will be plaque build up between teeth and along the gum line. This can progress from plaque to tartar to gingivitis to gum disease. Gum disease may lead to tooth loss as well as several other inflammatory conditions throughout the body.

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