If you’re like most people, every trip to the dentist involves a sheepish reply to the question, “have you been flossing?” . We’ve all heard the many reasons we should floss daily, or a few times a week at a minimum: brushing your teeth isn’t enough to get between the tiny cracks of teeth, it helps prevent the buildup of plaque, reduces the risk of gum disease, cuts down on the possibility of bad breath, and so on. But would you be more motivated to keep up with your flossing if you knew it could help prevent pain?
One of the main benefits of flossing is that helps remove tiny particles of food from the spaces between teeth that even the best toothbrushes have a hard time reaching. This is important because that debris eventually decays, leading to a growth of bacteria that eats away at the tooth — and that means cavities. Cavities can be painful on their own, causing shooting pains or throbbing aches in response to pressure or changes in temperature, and if you’ve ever had a cavity filled, you know that even Novocain can’t prevent a certain amount of discomfort.
Many people deal with bleeding or sore gums, especially after brushing their teeth — even if they have good brushing habits. This often leads them to avoid flossing so as not to aggravate it, but dentists argue that this is the wrong response: although it may be initially painful, flossing can help clear up those issues. Bleeding, tender gums may be a sign of gingivitis or gum disease, which can become painful and have complications if left untreated, although they can also be the result of incorrect or overly-aggressive brushing. Flossing has been shown to help prevent and minimize gum disease, so avoiding it at the first sign of blood isn’t a good choice, especially when you first begin; the more you floss, the better shape your gums will be in, and bleeding and soreness should subside. If the bleeding lasts more than two to three weeks, however, see your dentist for an exam.
What may begin as mild pain from flossing, or from a cavity, can eventually lead to more serious dental issues, from periodontal disease to tooth decay — and flossing can help prevent both the little pains and the big ones.