Floss Haters, Unite!

Okay, let’s face it: flossing really isn’t much fun. We know we need to do it every day, and we swear every time we sit in the dentist chair that we will do better (we promise!). That is, if we even admit to not flossing. Turns out, 27% of adults are actually dishonest about their flossing habits with their dentists and hygienists, according to a national survey released by the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). By the way, the same study also revealed that instead of flossing, some Americans would rather:

  • Wash a sink full of dirty dishes – 18%
  • Wait in a long check-out line – 14%
  • Clean the toilet – 14%
  • Sit in gridlock traffic – 9%

But then, under the bright lights of the dental chair, you’re busted. You go in for a dental checkup, and the hygienist finds the truth: “You really don’t floss regularly, do you?” Chances are you’re guilted into doing better, but after awhile you skip a day, and that day turns to three, and eventually you’re back to where you started (sitting in the dentist chair again, with bleeding and throbbing gums).

So let’s talk floss.

Yes, we all know it’s necessary, and critical for removing all the plaque and bacteria from below the gum line. When you don’t do it, you’re seriously increasing your chances of developing bad breath, cavities, inflammation and, eventually, gum disease (which can often lead to other serious health issues). But it can also be kind of gross, and difficult to do.

If you’re a floss hater, maybe you should check out some good floss choices and alternatives:

Flossing picks or sticks. If a slimy string of floss is cutting off circulation to your fingers as you try to shove your hands into the back of your mouth, you may do better with a floss stick. 

Interdental brushes. These brushes have a small head with bristles held on by wire, and are designed to be inserted between the teeth gently.

Water flossers. Water flossers also clean between teeth and can be a good option if you have trouble flossing by hand or you have dental work that makes flossing difficult, like braces or permanent or fixed bridges.

Air flossers. Air flossers use a stream of air, interspersed with small micro droplets of water. Some prefer them to water flossers because they take up less space, and aren’t as messy.

Explore different types of floss. Sure, you hate floss. But maybe you should try another type of dental floss—waxed, unwaxed, thick or comfort floss, flavored, or unflavored.

Make sure to look for products that contain the ADA Seal of Acceptance, so you know they have been evaluated for safety and effectiveness. And ask your dentist how to use them properly to avoid injuring your gums.

And here’s a novel idea: come clean to your dentist and periodontist. He or she may have ideas or solutions you might not have thought of. Find what works for you, then stick with it, and you’ll have adopted a healthy habit for life.

For more flossing tips, visit mouthhealthy.org.