We know we should do it, and a lot of us think about it when we brush our teeth, yet only 49 percent of Americans floss on a daily basis. Even though flossing does a big part of the work of a healthy oral hygiene routine, why does only half of the population do it? Alla Wheeler, an associate professor of the dental hygiene program at NYU School of Dentistry, puts it simply: "There is no instant gratification with flossing." People brush their teeth because they feel clean afterward and have improved breath, but most don't think of flossing in the same way. As we segue from Halloween season into Thanksgiving and beyond, we are hitting the Super Bowl of dessert season. Flossing is now more important than ever to maintain healthy gums; here's why.
- Sugar is worse on its own: Eating sugar is the main reason for tooth decay, but it's not just because of sugar itself — how you eat sweets can increase odds of tooth decay. When you eat candy by itself you are directly exposing teeth enamel to more acid, and you don't produce as much saliva, which naturally washes the teeth. This is a big problem during Halloween time, so flossing postcandy is a must.
- It's harder to eliminate decay at night: Since most holiday celebrations occur at night, you consume more sugar before bed than you normally would. Dinner can be an hours-long affair, and before you know it, a fresh apple pie is on the table at 9 p.m. Flossing is typically recommended to be performed in the p.m., but it's important to abide by the nighttime rule during the holidays. The body produces less saliva when sleeping, leaving enamel more exposed to sugar. Flossing before bed will remove more of the plaque acquired during the day at all of those holiday festivities.
- Those sticky, seasonal treats: From Fall to Winter, we're introduced to a variety of delicious gummy candies, caramels, and other sticky surprises. It's natural to consume these foods, and you should enjoy them — with caution. Sticking with a casual flossing routine won't cut it against gooey sugars that cling to your teeth. Harder-to-chew treats like dried fruit and gummy candies will hold acid onto your teeth longer than other foods, leaving your teeth helpless against plaque. Flossing soon after you enjoy these treats or at least rinsing will help limit what sticks to teeth.