PSA: How to Answer “Do You Floss?”

Hi All!

So, today’s topic is on how to answer that pesky little question “Do you floss?”

First, let me fill you in on why we ask you that question. Is it because we really don’t know….NO, we already have the general sense whether you do or don’t as we’re cleaning your teeth. Are we thinking that maybe you really do, but may not be doing it correctly…Yes (there is a wrong way & right way to floss!). Are we testing you…Yes, we want to see if you’re being honest with us and if not then that’s showing us that you may not care to floss and want to lie so we won’t give you the spiel (guess what…I’m going to give you the spiel anyway!).

I ALWAYS ask, because you know what they say about assuming! I’ve had patients who have had plaque (yucky bacteria) in between every tooth and are bleeding like I just stabbed them with a prison shank (p.s. we don’t stab people or use prison shanks! We clean your teeth and if there’s a lot on there then we have to get it off….it’s our job, you’re welcome!). {Rant over}. When I ask these people that infamous “Do you floss” question some of them don’t just say “YES” quickly (in hopes that maybe I’ll believe that they just had some cherry kool-aid?) but say they really have been trying and give me details about what they do and their genuine want to do better!


That leads me into then asking them “How do you floss….do you go straight up between the teeth and then back out?” Usually the answer here is “Yes”. Now this is the improper way to floss! When you are flossing in between the teeth the goal is to remove the plaque from each tooth surface (see how I said EACH). You are in between two teeth so you want to move the floss up and down against one tooth (you’ll be able to get that floss below the gum line, removing so much more!) and then you bring the floss to go up and down the second tooth! (Think of it as making a C-shape around each tooth!). Quickly going up and down between the teeth only removes some plaque leaving everything on the surfaces of the individual teeth that you didn’t get against and everything below the gum lines of each of them!

Then I have those patients who are just completely honest and say “No” (or my personal favorite “Yea, twice a year when you do it”….btw not my personal favorite, that my friends was sarcasm). I have also had a couple people who have said…”Oh well the News (or google) told me that flossing isn’t important”…lies, just lies! I am thinking those people in these ‘studies’ that came out a few months back were not flossing properly or know anything about plaque/calculus and the damage that it can cause to not only the teeth, but to the gum tissue as well as the bone!

Here is the real deal about plaque/calculus:

Plaque is a loose form of bacteria that you are able to remove by brushing and flossing. If not removed that loose plaque will crystallize into calculus (not the math) or tartar (not the sauce) which you are unable to remove with these methods and only hygienists can with our ‘prison shanks’. This bacteria not only can cause cavities on the teeth, but can actually start eating away at your gum tissue, as well as the bone that supports your teeth in place (this is called periodontal disease). So for the health of your teeth and mouth in general, brushing at least twice a day AND flossing is SUPER important and nothing takes the place of getting that floss up and down on each surface of the two teeth you are in between!

I know it’s time consuming (a couple minutes…bummer), but really try to get it into your daily routine! And when we ask you that question “Do you floss?” Please just be HONEST with us! If you do not, that’s ok, but we want to educate you and let you know why it is important because many people do not realize just how destructive that plaque/calculus is! If you do floss, GREAT…we may have to tweak your technique or up the amount of times you do it (once a day at least is ideal!). If you still do not want to floss after the spiel, then that’s fine, but I know that I have given you the information and informed you of the consequences by you not doing so!

We hygienists are here to help you, we are here to educate you, we are here to improve your overall oral health so that you can keep those chompers healthy and as long as possible!



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