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Floss

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How Your Dentist Knows You're Not Flossing
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A recent survey by the American Dental Association found that just under half of all Americans floss their teeth daily.

What about the other half?

My guess is that they’re the ones who floss twice a year — right before their dental checkups.  They think they can pull a fast one on us, but here’s a little secret: dentists can tell when you’ve been  flossing and when you haven’t.

How Dentists Can Tell When You’re Not Flossing

Woman Flossing Before Dental ExamThe way we can tell if you’re not flossing is if your gums are bleeding.  Although there are other, less common conditions that can make your gums bleed, gingivitis is the main cause.  Gingivitis is when the gums are inflamed due to all of the bacteria in your mouth collecting right between the gums and the teeth.

The problem is that it takes about a week of daily flossing for gingivitis to go away and make it so your gums don’t bleed when they are cleaned.

The most authoritative book on the gums — that’s 1,328 pages dedicated to your gums! — states the following:

The presence of plaque for only 2 days can initiate gingival bleeding on probing, whereas once established, it may take 7 days or more after continued plaque control and treatment to eliminate gingival bleeding.

So, if you end up brushing and flossing really well right before your dental cleaning and exam, your teeth will be clean, but your gums will still show the main sign of inflammation: bleeding.

If you really want to trick your dentist into thinking you’re brushing and flossing regularly, you’ll have to do it for at least seven days before your visit. And if you’re gonna do that, why not simply brush and floss every day?

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Flossing in Public - Is it OK?
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Did you know that about two months ago at a minor league baseball game in Lowell, Massachusetts an obscure dental world record was set?

Over 3,000 baseball fans simultaneously flossed.  Together.  In public.  In fact, you can see the happy faces of these world flossing record holders here.

Reading this story reminded me of an incident that happened a few months ago.  I was on a subway train riding home from dental school.  I couldn’t help but notice that the woman across from me was busy flossing her teeth.  Perhaps she had read this article on flossing mistakes and was trying to show the world what a good flosser she was, but I doubt it.

Flossing In PublicAs a budding dental professional and a slight germophobe, I was torn.  On one hand, this woman seemed serious about taking care of her teeth and gums.  On the other hand, she was most likely flicking all kinds of bacteria and perhaps tiny pieces of her lunch on those around her and the inside of the subway car.

Flossing In Public: Is It OK?

I can appreciate both sides of the debate regarding flossing in public.  Here’s a quick summary:

Why Flossing In Public is Not OK

In a recent letter to the American Dental Association, a dentist, Dr. Sigurds O. Krolls, said the following in regards to the world flossing record that was set at that Massachusetts baseball game mentioned above:

I looked in amazement at the photograph of the enthusiastic crowd in the Red Sox’s Single-A affiliate ballpark flossing their teeth. Just imagine all the viruses, bacteria, saliva released in the air! As for the food particles: spit out, removed from the floss with one’s fingers or, at best, swallowed.

And I would not be surprised that in their euphoric state, the flossing was followed by high-fives, handshakes or slaps on the back. No “saniwipes” noticed, but it would have been too late.

Dr. Krolls makes the point that we do have a lot of very small junk stuck in our teeth and it’s best not to remove it when you’re surrounded by other people.

Why Flossing In Public Is OK

There are also people who see no problem with flossing in public.  Some arguments that can be made in the public flossers’ favor are:

  • It’s freedom of expression.
  • A sneeze, like public flossing, also spreads lots of bacteria around.  Should we say that it’s not OK to sneeze in public?
  • Some people may be very careful when flossing in public and don’t let anything leave their mouth.  Should they be penalized for the bad behavior of the food-flinging flossers?

What Are Your Thoughts on Flossing in Public?

Most of the people I’ve talked to think that flossing is something that should be done in the privacy of your own home, or in a public bathroom if it needs to be done in public.

I tend to agree that flossing should be done outside of the public sphere since flossing in public can make those around you uncomfortable or even sick.

What do you think: Is flossing in public OK?

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Should You Floss Before or After Brushing?
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One night, shortly after my wife and I got married, we were getting ready for bed and she noticed that I brush my teeth after I floss.  She had always brushed before flossing. We probably would’ve discussed this fascinating subject in more detail if we hadn’t been so tired…

Do You Floss Before or After Brushing?Interestingly, we had both been brushing and flossing in a different order for twenty-some years of our lives before we met each other and we both had pretty good results to show for it.

My thought process goes like this: it wouldn’t make sense to wash your hands, and then pick out all of the stuff under your nails because that would just get the dirt all over your freshly-washed hands.  So why would anyone in their right mind floss after brushing?

Well, here’s why: Those who advocate flossing after brushing state that when you floss first, you don’t brush the plaque away, you simply push it back into the spaces between your teeth where it can grow and cause cavities.

So who’s right?  Should you floss before brushing your teeth?  Or should you brush your teeth before flossing?

Should You Floss Before or After Brushing?

After plowing through several dental hygiene-related textbooks, I couldn’t find any information on whether you should brush or floss first.

After reading online, I noticed that there are people who are very passionate about this subject — as this forum post demonstrates!

I think the reason that there’s not really any concrete recommendations about whether you should brush or floss first is because it really doesn’t matter whether you brush or floss first.

The main reason we need to brush and floss is because every time we eat or drink fermentable carbohydrates, the little bugs that live in our mouth grow, reproduce, and build homes on our teeth.  Their waste products are what harm our teeth.

Learn more about plaque by reading What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque.

The best way to combat plaque is to disrupt it, or destroy the intricate colony that it has built on your teeth.  When the bugs are floating around in your mouth, they don’t harm your teeth.  They only harm your teeth when they have attached to your teeth and grown into a layer on top of your teeth.  By brushing and flossing, you remove the bugs from your teeth temporarily.  They will re-attach, but then you can simply brush and floss again to disrupt their little home once again and put them in their place.

As long as you are disrupting the bacteria that live between your teeth regularly, they won’t be able to cause cavities. When you floss, you scrape them away from their home and it will take them a some time to regroup, get organized, and start growing again between your teeth.

Does It Matter If You Brush or Floss First?

It really doesn’t matter!  In fact, you don’t even need to brush and floss at the same time.  As long as you’re eating good foods, brushing twice a day, flossing once per day, and avoiding these ten common flossing mistakes, you should be fine.

Want more tips on how to combat the plaque in your mouth?  Read about these Top 12 Weapons of Plaque Destruction!

Do you have any questions, comments, or thoughts on whether you should brush or floss first?  In what order do you brush and floss?  Feel free to leave your opinions below in the comments section.  Thanks for reading!

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Weapons of Plaque Destruction
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About five years ago, I was sitting in the first lecture of an Introduction to Dentistry class.  The professor, a local dentist, was talking about how plaque forms on our teeth and how it causes our teeth to decay.  Something clicked inside of me that day, and that lecture helped solidify my desire to become a dentist.

Weapons of Plaque DestructionI summarized that lecture in my first post ever on Oral Answers back in January 2010 entitled What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque. If you haven’t read it and you’re curious about how tooth decay begins, you might want to take a look at it.

Because plaque can eventually cause you to lose your teeth, it is important to remove it and try to minimize its formation.  Here are 12 easy ways you can do that: The Top 12 Weapons of Plaque Destruction.

Top 12 Weapons of Plaque Destruction

Weapon #1 – Brushing Your Teeth

Brushing your teeth not only removes plaque, but some toothpastes also contain antimicrobials, such as Triclosan in Colgate Total. Toothpaste also contains abrasives which can help mechanically remove plaque from your teeth.

To find out what else is in toothpaste, read The 10 Main Ingredients In Your Toothpaste.

Weapon #2 – Flossing

Flossing helps remove plaque that is stuck between your teeth.  Cavities between teeth are so common that the two fillings required by the most popular dental board exam both have to include a cavity that is between two teeth.

Think you could use some tips on flossing?  Start by reviewing these 10 common flossing mistakes.

Weapon #3 – Fluoride

Fluoride has three different ways that it makes our teeth stronger and more resistant to the bad effects of plaque.  Fluoride is the only active ingredient in most toothpastes sold in the United States.  Fluoride is also added to many municipal water systems.  There is a strong, ongoing debate about whether or not it’s okay to add fluoride to everyone’s water.

Weapon #4 – Xylitol

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that somehow helps fight plaque.  Xylitol is found in many chewing gums and you can also buy it in solid form from many health food stores or from Amazon.  Then you can use it to sweeten drinks like tea and coffee.

To learn more about this valuable plaque-fighting sugar alcohol read the article, Xylitol: What It Is and How It Protects Your Teeth.

Weapon #5 – Anti-Plaque Mouthwash

Many plaque-fighting mouthwashes contain ingredients such as cetylpyridinum chloride (CPC) which can kill the bacteria responsible for causing cavities.

Weapon #6 – Water

Drinking water or rinsing your mouth out with water after eating sugary foods can help wash away food that sticks around in your mouth. Since the bacteria live off the food you eat, you will be starving them by rinsing out your mouth.

Weapon #7 – Saliva

Saliva helps protect the teeth in many ways.  You can read about the six main ways that your spit protects your teeth in the post, How Saliva Protects Your Teeth.

If you suffer from dry mouth, you may be losing the war against plaque in your mouth.  Learn about six causes of dry mouth and 348 medications that can cause dry mouth.

Weapon #8 – Plaque Disclosing Tablets

If you don’t know where the plaque is, it’s hard to destroy it.  Plaque disclosing tablets work by coloring the plaque on your teeth so that you can make sure you’re removing it all when you brush and floss.

To learn more about plaque disclosing tablets, including the best places to buy them, read How Plaque Disclosing Tablets Can Help You Brush Better.

Weapon #9 – Chewing Gum

Chewing stimulates your salivary glands.  Some types of chewing gum are better than others.  Make sure you’re chewing the right type of gum for your oral health by reading about which of the three types of chewing gum is best for your teeth.

Weapon #10 – Your Tongue

Your tongue is a big weapon of plaque destruction.  Your tongue (with the help of your saliva – see weapon #7) can help clean sugary food off of your teeth so that you swallow it rather than letting it sit on your teeth and feed the plaque.

Weapon #11 – Certain Foods

Certain foods can actually help your teeth repair themselves after you eat a sugary snack.  Cheese contains phosphates and calcium that your saliva can utilize to help remineralize your teeth after they get “attacked” by the acid from plaque.  To appreciate this effect, you might want to read about what happens in your mouth every time you eat or drink.

Not sure what to eat for healthy teeth?  Learn about 16 delicious foods that you and your teeth will enjoy.

Weapon #12 – Sealants

Sealants are mainly used on children’s permanent molars.  Sealants are a strong plastic material that dentists can flow into the small grooves on the biting surfaces of your children’s teeth.  By covering up these grooves, you remove a nice, hard to brush place where plaque loves to hide.  Sealants are very effective at preventing tooth decay on the biting surface of molar teeth.

Conclusion

Hopefully this article gave you some good ideas about how you can help win the war against plaque in your mouth and help your teeth to live a long life.

Do you have any questions or anything you’d like to say about oral health or hygiene?  I’d love to hear your comments below, and I’ll try to personally respond to each one.  Thanks for reading!

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Products with American Dental Association Seal
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Not many people are aware that the American Dental Association keeps an updated list on their website of all of the dental products that have received the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

You can view and print the entire list of ADA Accepted dental products here in PDF format.

When people think of the ADA Seal, the first product category to come to mind is usually toothpastes.  However, the toothpaste category came in second place.  There are more than twice as many mouth rinses than toothpastes that carry the ADA Seal.

Below you can find a list of all the categories and how many products in each category have received the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

The 15  Categories of Dental Products that carry the ADA Seal

ADA Seal of Acceptance1 – Mouth Rinses.  143 different brands of mouthwash qualified for the ADA Seal.

2 – Toothpastes.  65 toothpastes currently carry the ADA Seal.

3 – Fluoride Mouth Rinses.  44 brands of fluoride mouthwashes qualified for the ADA Seal.

4 – Toothbrushes.  34 different toothbrushes received the ADA Seal.

5 – Floss.  30 different brands of floss qualified for the ADA Seal.

Even if you’re using ADA approved floss, you can still make these 10 mistakes when you floss.

6 – Chewing Gum.  5 different brands of chewing gums qualified for the ADA Seal.

7 – Fluoride Gels.  4 brands of fluoride gel qualified for the ADA Seal.

8 – Denture Adhesives.  3 denture adhesives qualified for the ADA Seal.

9 – Water Filters.  2 water filters carry the ADA Seal of Acceptance.  I wondered why a water filter would get the ADA Seal.  It turns out that the PUR water filters reduce levels of contaminants in water while not reducing the level of tooth-protecting fluoride.

10 – Canker Sore Pain Relief Ointments.  2 canker sore pain relief ointments qualified for the ADA Seal.

11 – Plaque Disclosing Mouth Rinses.  Only 1 plaque disclosing mouth rinse, Listerine Agent Cool Blue Tinting Rinse, qualified for the ADA Seal.  Unfortunately, I don’t think it was deserved as Listerine Agent Cool Blue does not disclose plaque; it simply tints all of the teeth blue.

To see what my teeth looked like after rinsing with Listerine Agent Cool Blue, read the article Listerine Agent Cool Blue Doesn’t Disclose Plaque.  If you want to find plaque disclosing solutions that actually show you where the plaque is on your teeth, read the article How Plaque Disclosing Tablets Can Help You Brush Better.

12 – Denture Pain Relief Ointment.  Only 1 denture pain relief ointment, Benzodent Analgesic Denture Ointment, qualified for the ADA Seal.

13 – Emergency Tooth Preservation Products.  Only one product got the ADA Seal in this category, Save-A-Tooth.

To learn more about how to use the Save-A-Tooth System, read the article What to Do When Your Permanent Tooth Gets Knocked Out.

14 – Interdental Cleaners.  Only one brand of interdental cleaners, Stim-U-Dent Plaque Removers, qualified for the ADA Seal.

15 – Dentist-Dispensed Teeth Whitening Gels.  Only 1 brand of teeth whitening gel, Opalescence Whitening Gel 10%, qualified for the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

Does the ADA Seal Mean Everything?

As I stated above, there are many great plaque disclosing tablets/solutions that don’t have the ADA Seal while the one that does only tints your teeth without showing you where the plaque is!

Usually the ADA Seal indicates that a product actually does what it is supposed to do (is effective) and is safe.  You can read more about the ADA Seal in this previous article: The ADA Seal of Acceptance: Everything You Need to Know.

Do you have any questions, comments, or concerns about the ADA Seal or products that have received it?  I’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!