Do you floss occasionally? Good. Do you floss every day? Better. Do you floss after each meal? Best.
Have you never flossed? Bad, very bad indeed. Why don’t you bum off a piece of floss (about 15 inches long) from a friend and find out what it’s all about?
– Get yourself in front of a mirror. Wind the floss around your middle or ring fingers and leave about 4 inches free between your fingers.
– Then grasp the floss between your thumb and index finger of each hand. This may sound trickier than it is, it’s easy to learn, though. Insert/slide the floss between your teeth, if the gaps are narrow, use a sawing motion to get the floss in.
– Move the floss up and down against the tooth cleaning it above and also below the gum line. Do this also if you’ve got a tooth which doesn’t have another tooth beside it.
– After cleaning a few teeth, unwind the floss from your fingers, move it a bit forward so that you’ve got a clean piece between your fingers and rewind it again.
I bet you’ll be disgusted at what comes out of the gaps between your teeth! You may find some remains from your meals on the surface of your mirror, you may also liberate some bad odours. How’s that? Don’t you brush your teeth thoroughly twice every day? Hopefully this is the case, but as you’ve just seen, it’s not enough. Only brushing *and* flossing make for perfect dental hygiene. Brushing without flossing is like washing only 65% of your body!
But flossing is not only useful to dislodge food remains, it also helps to avoid the development of plaque which can eventually harden into a substance called tartar (which can only be removed by a dentist). Plaque causes tooth decay and can lead to gum disease. Bacteria can develop producing toxins which irritate and inflame the gums – this condition is called gingivitis, which, if left untreated, can even lead to bone loss, loose teeth and teeth which fall out. And you don’t want that, do you?
Flossing as such is not really a new thing, anthropologists have found dental floss (and toothpick) grooves in the teeth of prehistoric humans. A dentist from New Orleans, Levi Spear Parmly (1780 – 1859) is seen as the inventor of the dental floss as we know it. He used an unwaxed silk thread. The Johnson & Johnson Company from New Brunswick, New Jersey, patented dental floss in 1889. During WW2 a Dr. Charles C. Bass replaced the silk thread with a nylon one.
I tried several brands of unwaxed floss but I didn’t like them. They cut into my fingers and if I’m not careful also into my gums. I’ve used waxed Johnson & Johnson Reach Dentotape for some years and can only recommend it. It‘s a bit thicker than the average floss and it may be a bit difficult to get it into extremely narrow gaps, but it‘s more agreeable to wind round the fingers and doesn‘t hurt the gums.
I‘ve found Reach Dentotape Ribbon Floss, Extra Wide, Unflavoured, 100 yd (91.4 m) on the net for 5.29 $ (January 2010). Unflavoured, yes, from research on the net I‘ve learnt that it can also be got with cinnamon or mint flavour. I can‘t comment on this as I‘ve never seen or used these varieties.