Dr. Chip Tartaroff, DDF (Doctor of Dental Flossing) answers flossing questions for readers of this blog and the NFC website, www.flossing.org. Here's a recent question from Moon M:
Okay, so I don't floss.
Now don't be disgusted just yet!
The reason I don't floss is because I feel like I don't need to.
There are spaces/gaps between ALL my teeth - I'm not kidding.
I don't see how food could get stuck there, I would feel it as the spaces are quite large.
Am I right in my reasoning?
ps. I wish I could afford braces :(
pps. what's the verdict on adult braces? I'm 23.
So you don't floss. Based on how you describe your teeth, you may not need to.
Even though you're not a flosser, I'm glad you decided to write and ask about it.
You probably hear about flossing a lot, and it's made you "flossing curious."
There is a simple way you can figure out if not flossing "at all" is right for you.
Honestly, as I've mentioned elsewhere, for me, the food stuck between my teeth is probably the prime reason I got to be such a floss sympathizer.
Not you, however.
But there are other reasons to floss, and for you, I'd suggest a simple test.
Take a piece of floss and gently run it along the edges of your teeth - especially your back teeth.
Check for two things -
First, does the floss smell?
If you answer yes, it's a sign your brushing isn't cleaning enough around the base of some teeth. The smell is from the bacteria and food debris in your mouth that can cause bad breath and cavities.
The second thing is whether there is blood on the floss.
Since you're not a flosser, and regular flossing does toughen up your gums, even if you're gentle, a little bleeding might happen. But regularly seeing blood on floss or your tooth brush is a sign of sickly gums. Sucking on some vitamin C might be helpful (see "Floss Your Roots," below), but more brushing and flossing will certainly help. Some people have great teeth with few if any cavities but get over confident about their mouth and develop big problems with gum disease.
Gum problems are what I'd suggest you watch out for and use floss to check your gum health from time to time.
Quick note regarding braces - they work, but they take about 2 years and cost $.
Wiki has a good piece on them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dental_braces
I've heard about people in their 50s using the new clear braces. By the time you're 25, your braces could be off. If you're lucky, the braces will also be paid off by then.
Thanks again for writing!