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Bad Habits

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Flossing Mistakes
©Prod-Akszyn/Shutterstock.com

It seems so simple to just slide some string between your teeth to clean those hard-to-reach areas.  While the idea is simple, there are a few techniques that you need to master in order to maximize the return on the time you spend flossing.

Here are ten common mistakes that people make when they floss:

10 Common Flossing Mistakes

1 – Not Flossing the Sides of Both Teeth

Flossing MistakesIf you just slide the floss down, and then pull it up, you are only getting 50% of the job done.  When you move the floss up between two teeth, you need to make sure that you are cleaning the side of both teeth.  One of the favorite places for plaque to hide is between teeth. If you’re only removing plaque from the side of one of the teeth, you could easily get a cavity on the tooth that you’re not flossing.

Find out about six common places where you are most likely to get cavities.

2 – Using the Same Section of Floss Between All of Your Teeth

When you floss you are removing bacteria from between your teeth and below the gum-line.  If you use the same section of floss for all of the teeth in your mouth, you are spreading around a lot of bacteria.  Of course you still are loosening the plaque, which has its benefits, but if you use a new section of floss each time you floss between two teeth, you will be loosening the plaque without putting plaque that you’ve already removed back in between your teeth.

3 – Snapping the Floss Down Hard Between Your Teeth

To get the floss to go between a tight contact between two adjacent teeth, try working the floss back and forth applying a firm but controlled downward pressure.

Snapping the floss down between the teeth can not only injure your gums in the short-term, but the trauma can cause your gums to recede.  Do it enough, and you’ll cause gum disease.

4 – Not Flossing Behind the Very Back Teeth

Even though there isn’t a tooth next to it, it is still important to clean behind the four teeth that are all the way in the back of your mouth (two teeth on each side in the upper and lower jaws.)  This can help remove bacteria that has made its way  between your tooth and gums.

5 – Flossing Aimlessly Without a Plan

When you floss, you need to have a road-map of what order you are going to floss your teeth in, or you can quickly become confused and miss some teeth or even a quadrant of your mouth.  It may be easiest to start in the upper right and go to the upper left, then come down to the lower teeth in the bottom left and move across to the bottom right.

However, as long as you have a plan, it really doesn’t matter which teeth you floss first.  Personally, I start right in the middle of my upper teeth and work my way back on one side and then on the other.  Then I do the same thing on the lower teeth.  Just find a “floss order” that works for you and stick to it so that you don’t forget to floss any teeth.

Dental Floss

6 – Not Flossing Around Dental Appliances

Many people don’t know that if they have fixed dental appliances in their mouth, they need to floss around them.  For example, if you have a bridge, it is necessary to use a floss threader, or get something similar to Oral-B Superfloss.

I had braces on my lower teeth when I was a teenager.  After I had them removed, the orthodontist cemented a wire that connects to each of my six lower front teeth.  This stabilizes them, but also makes it impossible to use conventional floss due to the wire.  Because of this, I have to use Superfloss or floss threaders to get under the wire so I can floss and maintain my gum health.

7 – Quitting When Your Gums Bleed

Blood may scare some people when they floss because they think that they are hurting their gums if they bleed.  You are not hurting them as long as you’re not flossing too hard (see mistake #3.)

Most likely, the reason they bleed is because they haven’t been flossed in a while and the gum tissue has become red and inflamed.  This is a condition known as gingivitis and it occurs because the body is sending more blood to the gum.  This is to help the tissue fight all of the plaque that is accumulating.  When you floss, you are removing that plaque, and since the tissue is inflamed and engorged with blood, you are causing some of the blood to leak out.  After a few days, your gums should return to health and you can floss normally without any bleeding.

8 – Not Spending Enough Time With Your Floss

Most people have 28 teeth if they’ve had their wisdom teeth extracted.  When you floss, you need to get both sides of the teeth (even the most posterior teeth – see mistake #4.)  That means that there are 56 sides that you need to get.  You should be spending a couple of seconds with each side, scraping up and down against the tooth a few times before moving onto the next surface.  That means that it will probably take you around two minutes to floss your entire mouth if you have a full set of teeth.

9 – Not Applying Pressure to the Tooth Surface

When you floss, you want to be careful to avoid using too much downward pressure so you don’t damage your gums.  However, when you are flossing against the side of a tooth, you want to make sure that you are pushing the floss against the tooth surface enough to be able to remove the plaque.

10 – Only Using Floss to Remove Food

Unfortunately, lots of people think that the only reason for flossing is to remove food that has gotten wedged between their teeth. I think many people end up doing this because they can see the food between their teeth — they can’t see the plaque.  An easy solution to this problem is to use a plaque disclosing tablet/solution to visualize the plaque on your teeth.

When you floss, your primary goal should be to scrape against each tooth to remove as much plaque as you can.  As long as you are doing this, you should be getting rid of the food between your teeth without even thinking about it.

Floss Correctly and Keep Your Teeth For Your Whole Life

By avoiding these ten common mistakes, you will be able floss more efficiently which will lead to greater oral health.  Since many cavities start out between two teeth, you will be able to prevent many cavities by regularly flossing and avoiding these ten flossing mistakes.

Do you have any questions or comments about flossing?  I’d love to hear them!  Just leave them below in the comments section.

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Biting Nails Teeth
©Diego Cervo/Shutterstock.com

It’s been estimated that about half of all humans bite their nails.  At ten fingernails per human (and maybe some toenails thrown in for good measure), that adds up to billions of fingernails that are chewed on everyday.

Fingernail biting has been linked to genetics and occurs more often in females than males.  I bit my nails frequently from the age of 5 up until about 25, when I kind of grew out of it.

Our teeth can do many amazing things, like helping us speak, making us look more attractive than we really are, and allowing us to chew a variety of healthy foods.  One thing that teeth aren’t good for though is biting our nails!

In fact, biting your nails can actually cause harm to your teeth and other structures inside of your mouth.  Here’s a breakdown of some of the negative effects that biting your nails can have on your oral health.

6 Reasons Why Biting Your Nails is Bad for Your Teeth

Nail Biting Can Harm Your Teeth

1– Biting your nails can cause your teeth to get chipped. This is definitely the biggest reason to not bite your nails.  Chewing on hard fingernails can take its toll on your teeth.  Sometimes when bite through a nail, your teeth hit together pretty hard, which could chip a tooth.

Repeated flexing of your teeth’s enamel occurs when you bite your nails and can cause the enamel to fracture or chip.

To find out more about enamel and the other layers of your teeth, read The Anatomy of a Tooth.

For most people, chipping a tooth is the only negative effect that biting your nails might have on your teeth.  In fact, the book Pediatric Dentistry by Pinkham states:

There is no evidence that nail biting can cause…dental change other than minor enamel fractures.

However, various studies have shown that nail biting can cause other oral problems.  Keep in mind that some of the following negative effects are very rare and won’t always occur with everyone, so you might want to take them with a grain of salt!

2 – Biting your nails can cause a diastama — a gap between your two front teeth. If the nail biting habit begins when the child is very young, it has been reported to cause a gap between teeth.  While I was unable to find a study to confirm this, I did find a dentist has a a picture of it on his website here.  While this can occur, it probably won’t unless someone is constantly shoving their nail up between their teeth.

3 – Nail biting can cause the roots of your teeth to become weaker. Nail biting during orthodontic treatment (braces) has been shown to cause root resorption, which is when parts of the roots of your teeth get dissolved by the bone surrounding them.  This causes the roots of the teeth to become weaker.  Here’s one study and another one that explain this phenomenon.

4 – Biting your nails can cause you to lose your teeth. This study claims that biting your nails can cause you to lose your teeth.  Remember — this is the only study that I’ve found that claims this, and we definitely would need more studies to be done in order to verify this.  See my disclaimer above!

5 – Biting your nails can cause TMJ problemsThis study tells how biting your nails can cause disk displacement in the temporomandibular joint.  If you have pain in your TMJ, perhaps it is being caused by your fingernail biting habit.

6 – Biting your fingernails can cause gingivitis. This case report (PDF file) details the story of a young child that bit his fingernails and then shoved them up between his gums and teeth.  The report even has pictures if you’re curious.  You would think that this would be pretty rare but it might not be as uncommon as you’d think.  Here’s another report here and one more here! It does go to show that kids can think of anything to do with their fingernails after they’ve chewed them off of their fingers.

Conclusion

I have talked about some of the extreme cases of biting your nails.  Obviously, many people do bite their nails without any dental problems.  Sometimes, however, people do develop problems.

One interesting fact I found while researching for this article is that biting your nails actually contaminates your mouth with interesting varieties of bacteria that are found on your hands.  Since I’m a slight germophobe (as mentioned here and here), this tidbit encourages me keep my nail biting habit in remission.

Hopefully the information provided above can give you the encouragement you need to help you to kick your fingernail biting habit.  Or, maybe you’re willing to take the risk and keep on biting your nails.

Have you ever hurt a tooth or had any dental problems due to biting your nails?  Please share your comments below!