This is a critical question occasionally asked by patients at Kenneth Hovden DDS in Daly City. The dentist’s answer, however, is “No!”
Bleeding is probably a sign that you need to clean your teeth and gums more thoroughly—not leave them alone. It is extremely challenging to clean effectively between teeth without using floss or an interdental brush.
If you have never flossed before, your gums might bleed the first few times you do. The bleeding may be due to gum inflammation, the beginnings of gum disease. Keep flossing gently and the bleeding often stops within a week or two.
Gingivitis (early gum disease) and the more advanced periodontal disease is extremely common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that half of American adults aged 30 and over have periodontal disease. It is definitely not something to be taken lightly.
If you don’t make flossing a habit, and your gums become sore, swollen, and tender, it could result in gum disease. The good news is that, unlike dental caries, gum disease can be reversed with improved oral hygiene.
It is important to correctly use dental floss to remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth:
- Cut a length of floss about 18 inches long.
- Securely wind each end around your middle fingers.
- Take hold of the floss with your forefinger and thumb leaving about two inches to work with.
- Thread the floss between two teeth.
- Hold the floss tightly against the side of the tooth and move it up and away from the gumline. You want to clean the space between the tooth and gum without pulling more gum tissue away, so it’s vital to scrape up and out of the pocket.
- Move the floss around the tooth to clean every surface—especially those that your brush can’t reach. As you use a section of floss, unwind from one hand to access a clean piece. With 18 inches, you should have enough to provide a clean section for every tooth. If you run out, that’s okay. Just toss the used piece and cut a new one.
Some people find it easier to start on one end on the upper teeth and clean each gap one by one until they reach the end on the opposite side. Then repeat for the bottom row. Whatever you decide on, make sure you clean around every tooth, including the back surfaces of the last molars.