According to a survey from the American Dental Association (ADA), a mere half of all Americans floss their teeth on a daily basis. A good number of folks in the other half do so just before a dental exam, hoping to fool their hygienist into thinking they are regular flossers. If you suddenly ramp up your flossing routine prior to your visit, not only are you not tricking us, but you could actually be causing more damage to your gums in the process-here’s how.
Obvious Signs of not Flossing
One of the telltale signs of an occasional flosser is bleeding gums. Dental experts note that plaque buildup for as little as two days can result in bleeding when the gums are probed. Once this plaque is established, it can take a week or longer before any bleeding is eliminated. This means that unless you are flossing for a full week leading up to your dental appointment, it is very likely that we will notice.
In many cases, a hygienist can tell you only flossed right before your appointment simply by looking at your gums. Healthy gums are light pink, while unhealthy ones often have a red, swollen appearance. There may also be slice marks in between your teeth where the floss has cut into your gums. This is something that will not be seen if you floss regularly, because your gums will be more resilient and able to bounce back.
Possibility of Doing Damage
Some people also ramp up their brushing just before coming in, which is something that could actually do more harm than good. Vigorously brushing and flossing will not reverse any damage that may have resulted from poor oral hygiene between visits. In fact, it may actually inflame soft tissues of the mouth and lead to issues such as gum recession. You are better off just starting over with good dental habits than you are trying to correct damage that has already occurred.
The Bottom Line
Brushing and flossing just before a dental exam is pointless. If you want good oral hygiene, you will need to consistently:
- Brush your teeth two to three times each day using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Floss after every meal or snack.
- Use a tongue scraper to remove harmful bacteria from your tongue.
- Rinse your mouth at least twice each day with an anti-bacterial mouthwash.
- Avoid eating too much sugar or drinking sugary beverages.
- Consume healthy snacks such as apples and celery, which speed up saliva production and prevent plaque from forming.
- Have regular dental check-ups and cleanings here in our office.
If you have been neglecting your oral hygiene, you can’t suddenly change your habits and think we will not notice, as the signs will be obvious. Even so, you should not put off coming in just because you are embarrassed by the condition of your mouth or teeth. Allow us to perform a thorough cleaning on your teeth and then help you develop new habits that will allow them to remain that way.