Everyone hates it. The number one reason people lie in the dental office. It's annoying. Who needs to do it anyway? Why can't I just brush and ya'll can leave me alone already? Here is why:
The biggest two mistakes people make are: thinking brushing is enough and don't need to floss or flossing everyday sometimes three times a day but doing it the wrong way.
Why is this so important? Well - around each tooth you have a little sulcus or moat where your gums are not attached to the tooth or the bone. PERFECT little pocket for food, plaque (ie-bacteria!) to sit in and hang out. And no matter which way you brush, there is no way, absolutely no way to get the bacteria out of this pocket on the sides of the tooth where it is contacting an adjacent tooth. Let this stuff sit there for just a week and you will have developed a little infection, which exponentially gets bigger as the bacteria colonize. Soon enough this infection is eating away at the connective tissue that is holding your gums attached to the tooth and the bone. Next thing you know, you've lost 4mm of bone and the roots to your teeth are showing. 4mm is a lot more than you might think when we're talking about your bone.
How do I know if my gums are healthy? The best way really is to see a dentist and ask them. We can tell a lot by looking at your gums, feeling for calculus underneath your gums, but we also see a lot on x-rays that we can't see by looking at your gums. Generally speaking your gums should be pink, not red and not puffy. They shouldn't bleed when you brush or floss (although if you are just beginning to "get clean" they might bleed for a little while but then should get better).
What is the right way to floss? Gently slide the floss in between two teeth and GENTLY slide it underneath the gums a little bit and make a "C" sliding motion around the side of one tooth and then lean over and do the same on the other tooth before pulling the floss out. Please don't slam it into your gums and make them bleed - they won't like that too much. And make sure you get between every tooth and even floss in the back on your last tooth.