If you’ve ever skipped brushing or flossing your teeth, you’re not alone. You probably know that both brushing and flossing are critical to your oral health, but if you had to choose one, which is worse to skip?
If you’ve ever skipped brushing or flossing your teeth, you’re not alone. Most people have had the importance of brushing their teeth drilled into them from a young age, but flossing is often overlooked as part of daily oral hygiene routines. According to a study, only 30 percent of Americans floss every day, and just over 32 percent never floss.
Both brushing and flossing should be part of your daily oral hygiene routine. But because so many people don’t do both on an everyday basis, the question arises: Which is worse to skip — brushing or flossing your teeth?
Brushing vs. Flossing
Brushing and flossing can feel like a chore, but engaging in both is critical for your oral health. Brushing and flossing remove plaque buildup, keeping your teeth and gums clean and healthy. Plaque — a biofilm that contains destructive bacteria that erodes tooth enamel — can accumulate on your teeth and beneath your gums, leading to weakened enamel, decay, gum disease, tooth loss, and bad breath.
Brushing targets the plaque from your teeth’s front and back surfaces, while flossing removes plaque from between your teeth and below your gum line. However, experts say that if you must pick one over the other, you should prioritize flossing. By using correct flossing techniques, you can remove the most destructive bacteria from those difficult-to-reach spots.
The Consequences of Skipping Brushing or Flossing
Dental plaque is home to over a thousand bacteria, and neglecting to brush or floss your teeth enables bacteria to thrive. This can lead to serious problems down the line like cavities, tooth loss, and gum inflammation.
When you neglect to floss your teeth, you raise your risk of:
- Tartar: If left undisturbed, plaque can harden, becoming tartar, which can only be removed by a dental professional.
- Cavities: A sugary diet and poor oral hygiene habits are often to blame for these small holes. When you skip flossing, the resulting cavities are usually found in the areas between your teeth, meaning they’re more difficult to fill than those located on your teeth’s front or back surfaces. If the decay progresses far enough, you may even lose a tooth!
- Halitosis: When you skip brushing and flossing, plaque builds up on your teeth. Plaque accumulation is one of the most common culprits behind halitosis, more commonly known as bad breath. Luckily, flossing can remove wedged food particles from between your teeth in addition to plaque.
- Gum disease: If your gums are inflamed, sore, or red, you may have gum disease (or periodontal disease). If left untreated, gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease, can progress to periodontitis and even tooth loss. Gum disease has also been linked to dementia, weight gain, and heart disease.
- Tooth discoloration: When you skip flossing, plaque and food particles accumulate between your teeth. As a result, any discoloration from a subpar flossing routine will likely appear at the edges of your teeth, which can make your teeth appear yellow.
- Developing poor habits: While skipping flossing every now and then isn’t the end of the world, it opens the door for poor oral hygiene habits.
- Infections: If you consistently skip flossing, you may have inflamed gums, tooth decay, or an abundance of unhealthy bacteria, all of which can make you more susceptible to infections and abscesses. Caused by bacterial infections, these dangerous pockets of pus can lead to root canals, tooth extractions, and even fatal brain infections.
In an ideal world, you should floss after every meal. However, if you only have enough time to floss once a day, try to floss in the evenings, after dinner but before bedtime. This will enable you to remove any plaque and food particles you’ve accumulated throughout the day.
In addition to flossing frequently, make sure you’re using proper flossing techniques. To remove plaque and food particles from beneath your gum tissue in addition to the outer and inner surfaces of your teeth, wrap the floss — wax floss is ideal, as it’s less likely to break or shred — in a c-shape. Then, gently rub the floss up and down to remove plaque or stray food particles. While it can be easy to only focus on cleaning the surface of your teeth, don’t forget to floss under the gum tissue. For an extra clean mouth, you can follow flossing with an antibacterial mouthwash.
Visiting A Dental Professional
If you’ve previously skipped brushing or flossing your teeth and have noticed plaque accumulation, tartar formation, or symptoms of decay or gum disease, it’s time to see a dental professional. Even if you are already diligent with your oral hygiene, you should visit your dentist twice a year for a cleaning and check-up.
Your dentist will be able to identify early signs of tooth decay and gum disease as well as provide any tips on better flossing techniques. For quality dental care, schedule an appointment at Espire today.