There’s an old joke that dentists tell— “You only have to floss the teeth you want to keep!” This is very true when you have braces. Flossing with braces can be tricky, but it is very important to do once a day. With practice and patience, you’ll see how flossing can help your mouth get and stay healthy!
Why the Fuss About Flossing?
Over 6 billion bacteria, including 700 different species, reside inside your mouth. Some of this bacteria lives on your teeth, especially if you have plaque buildup. The brackets and wires of braces trap food and other particles close to your teeth, which can lead to more bacteria that causes plaque. This buildup of plaque leads to tooth decay and eventually periodontal disease. Brushing is essential, but it doesn’t do the whole job. Flossing removes the plaque between the teeth and under the gum-line which helps prevent periodontal (gum) disease. This is a disease of the tissues that hold your teeth in place.
Gingivitis: An Early Warning Sign of Periodontal Disease
Your body will tell you when you are heading toward periodontal disease because the first symptoms are minor and easily reversed. Gingivitis is one of the first signs of trouble. If left untreated, it can progress and eventually cause tooth loss. This list goes from early onset symptoms to more severe:
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- A bad taste in your mouth
- Red, inflamed gingiva (gums)
- Tender or bleeding gums
Intervention in these early stages can frequently reverse the damage. This will mean dedication to flossing regularly, using interdental brushes (proxy brushes) and possibly a water flosser everyday.
If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress. and lead to periodontal disease. Signs that your gingivitis has developed into periodontal disease include:
- Pain when you chew
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
- Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Any change in the fit of removable appliances
These, more advanced symptoms, can lead to tooth loss. Do not ignore any of these symptoms and contact your orthodontist or general dentist for information on how to treat the disease. This is also the time to improve your flossing habits as soon as possible!
Working with Your Provider
When you go to your general dentist for a biannual prophylaxis (cleaning), they will measure the spaces between your teeth and gums by inserting a blunt measuring device into that space. Healthy teeth and gums have between 1 and 3 millimeters of space. Gingivitis is classified as having 4 millimeters of what’s called “attachment loss” in at least ONE space. Keep in mind that each tooth has 4 attachment points: front, back and either side. So, just one of those spaces on one tooth having a “pocket” of 4 mm is considered periodontal disease! This, of course is a bit rash, and easily reversed by proper flossing and brushing but it’s an early warning sign for the patient and it happens in even our youngest orthodontic clients.
There are also population disparities in the prevalence of periodontal disease in adults as illustrated by The National Institute of Dental Research and Craniofacial Research. Whether this is due to lack of resources or knowledge is up for debate, but our mission is to make sure that our patients have what they need to protect their teeth!
Part of preventing periodontal disease is working closely with your provider to make sure your orthodontic treatment plan meets your needs. We take your lifestyle, finances, and your desires into consideration. We want to work WITH you to make your dream of a beautiful, confident smile a reality.
Walton & Maready Orthodontics is welcoming new patients in their Raleigh, NC office.
Did you know your first visit with Walton & Maready is a free consultation, and it can include a set of x-rays? We review your medical history, your dental records, and discuss your treatment goals and options with you. When you participate in a treatment plan that meets your own goals, you are much more likely to succeed.
To request an appointment, click here for our Patient Form.