What would you rather do: wash a sink full of dirty dishes, clean a toilet, sit in traffic for an hour or floss your teeth? More than one third of Americans would prefer one of the first three options to flossing, according to survey results published last week by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Academy of Periodontology.
In addition, more than one in four survey responders said they lie to their dentist about how often they floss.
Experts recommend flossing once a day, in addition to brushing at least twice a day and getting regular dental checkups, to prevent periodontal disease, or gum disease.
“When bacteria-filled plaque collects below your gum line, it can lead to swelling, irritation, a receding gum line and loss of teeth,” says Dr. Molly Ericson, a dental resident at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “These are key indicators of periodontal disease, an inflammatory condition that has been linked to a host of serious health problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.”
If you’re not already a regular flosser, Dr. Ericson offers these tips to get started and develop good dental hygiene habits:
- Find the type of floss that works best for you. There are many varieties out there — waxed, un-waxed, thick, thin and even flavored floss. Figure out what feels most comfortable and natural.
- Work flossing into your daily routine. It doesn’t matter what time of day you floss as long as you do it.
- Remember that flossing shouldn’t hurt. You might experience some slight discomfort and bleeding if you haven’t flossed in a while, but once you get in the habit of daily flossing, that will go away.
“Flossing is one of the most important things you can do for your dental health,” says Dr. Ericson. “Brushing alone cannot remove the plaque buildup that can eventually lead to gum disease and other problems.”