The statistics show that the vast majority of Americans will never need this question answered. Less than 40% of us report that we floss daily. However, there is a small percentage of people that may be flossing too vigorously. Essentially, unless you can feel food stuck in your teeth, then you should only be flossing once a day. Plaque takes between 24 and 48 hours to form and harden, so flossing more than once in a 24 hour period is generally unnecessary.
However, even if you only floss once a day, there is still the potential for over-flossing. This category of over-flossing has to do with poor technique. Practicing a “sawing” motion up into your gum isn’t just uncomfortable, but it can cause lasting damage.
The Truth About Over-Flossing
Regardless of how frequently you floss, you need to follow an approved technique to avoid damage. If you’re allowing the floss to put too much pressure on the gum line or are physically cutting into the gum, then you can cause premature recession. The result of gum recession is an increased exposure of the roots of your teeth.
The increased surface area and baring of sensitive tissues can make you more susceptible to developing gum disease, even if you’re brushing and flossing regularly. Advanced gum disease will eventually cause bone loss in the jaw, so overly vigorous flossing can be a real problem.
Proper Flossing Techniques
The American Dental Hygienists Association suggests that you start with a whopping 18 inches of floss. Carefully wind the floss around your middle finger on each hand. Wrap one finger with the majority of the floss, and wrap the other finger once or twice around. This finger will be used to hold floss at it gets dirty.
Make sure you leave one to two inches of floss between your two hands and pinch each end between your thumb and forefinger for tactile support. You will use your thumbs and forefingers to guide the floss up in between your teeth. Make sure you do so gently and rub the floss against the edge of each tooth.
You may carefully follow the gum line up around the top curve, but you should avoid hitting the gum itself. The purpose is to remove tough-to-reach debris from the inside edges of the tooth, especially near the gum line. You don’t need to exert any pressure on the gum itself, as this can cause lasting damage.
If you’re worried that your current technique may be too rough on your gums, don’t hesitate to ask your dentist or hygienist to demonstrate proper flossing while you watch in a mirror. However, if you’re still nervous, then you can use a water or air-powered flosser on the lowest pressure setting to gently clean in between the teeth and along the gum line.
If you do opt to use an alternative flossing tool, then make sure to use an option approved by the American Dental Association and follow the instructions carefully. When not in use, all flossing instruments should be kept dry and stored properly to prevent bacterial growth.
Keeping Your Mouth Clean
It all boils down to two essential reminders. Just remember to floss daily. and talk with your dentist if you have any concerns. Flossing should not be painful, as you should carefully avoid exerting pressure on the gum line itself. If there’s some bleeding, then you probably already have some level of gum disease, and it’s time to visit your dentist anyway. Once you establish a strict routine to address developing periodontitis, then the bleeding will begin to fade.