More than Just a Piece of Thread: Choosing the Right Kind of Floss

by MikeMeehan 11/23/2016 2:49 PM

Flossing has come under fire recently. The U.S. Department of Health excluded a recommendation of floss in its latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans updates, claiming there’s not enough evidence flossing prevents gum disease or tooth decay. We, however, believe you should keep flossing. Flossing has been shown to reduce inflammation and bleeding of the gums, but only in short-term studies. The cost of a long-term study would take years and would cost a lot of money. Plus, there would be ethical ramifications from the non-floss group if flossing turned out to prevent long-term disease. While flossing may not have a whole slew of evidence in its favor, it is low-risk and doesn’t cost a lot. So we’ll keep recommending it. But choosing floss, believe it or not, can be complicated. You might ask, How is it complicated? It’s just a piece of thread. Floss is more than just a piece of thread. Consider these factors when determining which floss is right for you. Three Types of Floss Before you can determine specific preferences, you first have to decide between three types of floss: Nylon floss Monofilament floss Dental tape If you aren’t sure which one you use, it’s probably nylon floss. Nylon floss is the most common. But, in some circumstances, you might consider a different type. Drop the nylon floss if: Your flossing experience often involves the floss ripping or tearing. Nothing can be more annoying than having to unravel a new strand of floss from the spool because your strand snapped in two halfway through flossing. If this is a frequent occurrence, you may want to consider monofilament floss. It’s made of either rubber, plastic, or polytetrafluoroethylene — not fabric, like nylon — so it doesn’t shred as easy. You have a lot of bridgework or wide gaps between your teeth. In these cases, you may want to consider dental tape. Dental tape is wider and flatter than nylon tape, so it can more effectively clean out spaces between teeth.   If these aren’t concerns for you, nylon floss is a little cheaper. After choosing which type of floss, you still have another decision to make. Wax On or Wax Off? Should you buy waxed floss or unwaxed? Well, both will do the trick. And, when weighing pros against cons, some of the pros are subjective. For example, one camp claims waxed floss is easier to slide between crowded teeth, due to the wax coating on the nylon. The other camp, however, cites unwaxed floss as being easier to maneuver, due to its being thinner than waxed floss. Some qualities to consider when purchasing floss include: Waxed floss is more flavorful. Let’s face it: When flossing tastes good, you’re more likely to make it a part of your routine. The same goes for your children: If bubblegum flavored floss works as an incentive for them, then waxed floss is probably the way to go. This could also be just as much incentive to go with unwaxed. If you’re pregnant, for example, the flavor could trigger nausea. Unwaxed floss squeaks against clean teeth. Unwaxed floss will squeak against clean teeth, signaling to you plaque has been removed. Most waxed floss is coated in Teflon. Teflon is a tough synthetic resin made by polymerizing polytetrafluoroethylene, also known as the stuff used on non-stick cookware. Some people claim Teflon can be toxic to the body and can cause health issues like certain types of cancer. The American Cancer Society, however, does not suspect it of causing cancer. Once you’ve figured out what type of floss works best for you, you might have one more option to consider. Flossing tools Depending on your circumstances, you might need certain flossing tools. Floss holder For example, if you can’t wrap floss around your fingers, or if you have to floss for a parent or child, you may want to consider a Y- or U-shaped floss holder. Rather than thread a strand of floss between two fingers, you can use a pre-threaded device for farther reach or easier maneuverability. Floss threader Or you may want to consider a floss threader. A floss threader comes in handy if you have wide gaps between your teeth or if you have a child with braces. The threader is a flexible piece of plastic with a loop at one end. For braces, link a strand of floss to the loop, then slide the pointed end of the threader through the bridgework of the braces until the linked strand of floss has access to the tooth. Five Steps to Better Flossing While it’s a good idea to find the right floss for you, what’s more valuable is flossing the right way. Flossing, like brushing, should take about two minutes and incorporate these five steps: Start with an 18-inch strand of floss. Wind most of it around one of your middle fingers and the rest around the same finger on your other hand. Tighten floss with about an inch of floss between your hands. Glide floss between teeth with a gentle sawing motion. Curve it into a C against your tooth. Hold the floss against each tooth, gently scraping the tooth’s side while moving the floss away from the gum. Repeat on all teeth. Don’t forget the back ones. Rinse to remove any loosened plaque and food particles. Flossing may be under fire by some, but it is another tactic for removing plaque buildup on teeth. So, by using the right kind of floss, coupled with the right technique, you can expect results.

Are You Using Your Teeth for the Wrong Reason?

by MikeMeehan 10/13/2016 3:22 PM

Recently, I moved. The house is older, so instead of a closet, a six-foot section of wall is set back where a cabinet for clothing could go. The other day, my dad helped me install wire shelving. It was fairly straightforward: He held the shelving up, I used a level, and then I drilled in an anchor screw. During the process, I was tempted to hold the anchor screw with my teeth. Luckily, I remembered: Teeth do not make a good “third hand.” Five Reasons Your Teeth Don’t Make a Good “Third Hand” It’s easy, with home projects, to bite off more than we can chew. We might need an extra hand, so we’re tempted to use our teeth to hold a non-food object. But teeth don’t make a good “third hand” for the following five reasons: Biting down on non-food objects can crack enamel. When you chomp down on non-food objects — anchor screws, sewing needles, pencils — it’s easy to forget just how much pressure gets put on the teeth. One study suggests humans can bite with a force equivalent to about 265 pounds. In my case, I probably wouldn’t have exerted that kind of pressure on an anchor screw. But one surprise jolt is all it would take to crack enamel. Your teeth are at risk of shifting. For a similar reason to why braces straighten crooked teeth, a non-food object can shift straight teeth. In the case of braces, wiring applies pressure to the teeth, which straightens them over time. But with non-food objects, undue pressure is being placed on just one tooth. Over time, that one tooth can shift. You risk damaging other dental work that’s already been done. When you use your teeth as a “third hand,” you risk cracking fillings, which aren’t as strong as enamel, or damaging other dental work that’s already been done. You expose yourself to a choking hazard. One hiccup or yawn and the object could become lodged in your throat. With anchor screws, maybe not so much. But for something smaller, like a sewing needle, yes. Biting down on non-food objects over time can be noticeable. For people who bite down on non-food objects out of habit, the damage can even have a noticeable effect. A seamstress might have small ridges or grooves worn into teeth over an extended period of time from holding sewing needles. The same goes for construction workers with nails.         But you might be guilty of something worse than using teeth as a “third hand.” What’s Worse than Using Teeth as a “Third Hand”? All of us have probably used our teeth to tear electrical tape, or strip insulation from copper wiring, or snap plastic label tags from clothes, or pop a pull tab on a can of soda. But each of these actions — using teeth as scissors, wire strippers or bottle openers — is far worse than using teeth as a “third hand.” When we use our teeth as a “third hand” for non-food objects, we might unconsciously place too much pressure on our teeth. But when we use our teeth to tear, strip, snap or pop, we consciously exert an undue pressure on our teeth. Yes, it might not be super convenient to find the scissors, but in the long run, grabbing the proper tools will be better. Not Just Limited to Non-Food Objects Do you know the Tootsie Pop commercial, with Mr. Owl’s sage advice to the question “How many licks does it take to reach the center of a Tootsie Pop?” Mr. Owl knows, intrinsically, most of us aren’t patient enough to handle hard candy in a manner that’s best for our teeth. Hard candy, ice cubes and shelled foods can pose just as much a threat to teeth as common nails, needles and screws. The temptation can sometimes be there — with nuts and other shelled foods (like crab legs or lobster tail) — to use our teeth as a nut- or seafood-cracker. We are committed to protecting smiles. And one of the easiest ways to protect your smile is to use your teeth for their intended purposes. Next time you might be tempted to use your teeth as a “third hand,” use the proper tools instead. You’ll be well on your way to maintaining an attractive smile for a long time.

In 1492, How Did Columbus’ Teeth Do?

by MikeMeehan 10/10/2016 3:10 PM

In 1492 / Columbus sailed the ocean blue… Even today, you probably still have those two lines from Jean Marzollo’s poem memorized. Unfortunately, the poem doesn’t let us know about Columbus’ teeth. That’s ok, because we can garner some insight from other poems. Take Geoffrey’s Chaucer’s prologue of The Canterbury Tales, for example: When the West Wind also with its sweet breath / In every wood and field has breathed life into… We can infer “sweet breath” was important to people in the Middle Ages. And, thanks to the poem “O How Sweet the Breeze of April” by Arnaud de Marveil, we can also infer “snow-white teeth.” But if teeth were important to people in the Middle Ages… How Did They Take Care of Their Teeth? We have a few clues about how people in the Middle Ages took care of their teeth. For example, this page recounts how one woman, Jennifer A. Heise, tried several medieval tooth powders and rubs. Fresh Breath Powders Heise points us to two types of powders mentioned in Gilbertus Anglicus’ Compendium of Medicine: “And let him use this powder: Take of pepper, one ounce; and of mint, as much; and of rock salt, as much. And make him to chew this powder a good while in his mouth, and then swallow it down.” “And let him use these pills that are good for all manner of stinking of the mouth: Take of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and mace, eight drams; of red sandlewood, ten drams; of quibibis, seven drams; of cardamom, five drams. Mix them with the juice of mint and make pills of the size of a fig. And let him to have two of them under either side of his tongue at once.” In both cases, Heise described a burning sensation. But for the spice balls — the one with cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and mace — she said her breath was noticeably sweeter. Tooth Rubs Gilbertus Anglicus also wrote about tooth rubs: “. . . let the mouth be washed with wine that birch or mint has simmered in. And let the gums be well rubbed with a sharp linen cloth until they bleed…And let him rub well his teeth with the chewed herbs and also his gums. . . .” Heise reports her teeth did feel cleaner and less gummy afterward. What Can We Learn from the People in the Middle Ages? Obviously, today, we don’t use the same tooth powders or rubs as people in the Middle Age. Yet, while those aren’t the same as squeezing a dab of toothpaste onto a toothbrush, and brushing in short, circular strokes for two minutes, we can still take away some oral hygiene pointers of our own. We are what we eat. This answer to a Quora question credits better teeth to diet. For example, during the Middle Ages, most people couldn’t afford sugar. According to this medieval sourcebook, sugar cost 1 to 3 shillings a pound, and the average family budgeted 600 to 2,000 shillings a year on meals (anywhere from two to six shillings a day). As a result, people used sugar sparingly, if at all. This helped their teeth a lot, as sugar can act as a stimulant for plaque. To prevent disease, get into a tooth-cleaning routine. “And after every meal, let him wash well his mouth and rub well his gums and his teeth so that no corrupt matter abides among the teeth.” There’s a lot we can take to heart from Gilbertus Anglicus. This Columbus Day, as we reflect on Columbus and other medieval forefathers, let’s remember our own snowy-whites, keep our breath smelling sweet and keep our teeth free of plaque.

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