The top cause of tooth loss isn’t cavities, as some people think, but gum disease (periodontal disease). It’s estimated by the CDC that around 50% of the population over the age of 30 has some form of periodontal disease.
If your gums are still in the early stage of gingivitis as opposed to late stage periodontitis, you might be able to stop the progression of gum disease and even reverse it with proper oral hygiene.
At the Washington, DC, dental practice of Margaret Culotta-Norton, DDS, PC, Dr. Culotta-Norton and Dr. Peter Grinc provide dental education at each biannual cleaning, including a refresher course on proper flossing techniques.
Brushing can get your teeth clean on exposed surfaces, but can miss bacteria-laden bits of food between teeth and just below the gumline. These can turn into dental plaque and then harden into difficult-to-remove tartar.
When bacteria builds up below the gumline, it causes diseased pockets to form, and your gums will start pulling away from your teeth. Bone below the diseased gum can start to deteriorate, leading to tooth loss. Between teeth, cavities can start to form that will soon reach below the gumline as well, causing irreversible tooth decay.
Flossing removes 80% of interdental plaque, giving you a much better chance of keeping all of your teeth in your head well into your later years. Proper flossing technique is everything.
First step: Floss before you brush to get rid of debris trapped between your teeth and below the gumline. Then brush thoroughly and follow up with a good rinse and some mouthwash to kill any lingering bacteria. You should try for a good brush and floss twice a day at least.
Most people use standard dental floss. You should pull a piece between 18 and 24 inches long and wrap all but about an inch or two around your two middle fingers. You might prefer mint-flavored just for fresh breath.
Carefully slide the floss between two teeth, then curve it in a “C” shape first in one direction, then the other, gently scraping away debris from the teeth on either side. Switch to a new stretch of floss for each set of teeth you clean.
Alternately, you may choose to use interdental picks or sticks that are designed to slide between your teeth and scrub gently in all crevices. If you have braces, flossing with a water jet may be easiest, and can help you get tiny pieces of food stuck behind your braces to come loose.
To schedule a cleaning and dental checkup, get in touch with Margaret Culotta-Norton, DDS, PC by calling 202-833-1111, or request an appointment online.