You’ve probably heard it repeatedly from your dentist, and may have even heard it directly from Dr. Cindy Flanagan: you absolutely need to brush and floss your teeth every day. However, as most of us would admit, knowing you need to do something and gathering the willpower to actually do it are two very different things. It can be especially difficult to make dental hygiene a part of your daily routine if brushing or flossing is painful. At our Houston dental practice, we want to keep your smile healthy, beautiful, and comfortable. Sometimes patients come to us and ask: “should it hurt when I brush or floss my teeth?” In the following blog, Dr. Flanagan answers this question and explains why these habits are so crucial.
You may know that the American Dental Association suggests brushing for two minutes at least twice per day, but do you? If dealing with discomfort has discouraged you from brushing, it may help to better understand why this is an important part of oral hygiene. Why exactly is it that your dentist keeps getting on your case about brushing?
The fact of the matter is, this habit is extremely important. The food you eat and drinks you sip often leave behind debris on your teeth. This can build up into a sticky film called plaque, which harbors harmful bacteria that can create decay. Plaque makes your teeth look discolored, feel uneven, taste poorly, and, ultimately, it can destroy them. One of the best ways to fight plaque is to brush. The scrubbing action of a toothbrush’s bristles wipes away the particulate matter, preventing plaque formation.
The American Dental Association reports that, while most Americans brush, just “four of 10 Americans floss at least once a day, and 20 percent never floss.” Despite the fact that your dentist probably reminds you to floss every time you visit, chances are, you don’t make it a habit, especially if it hurts.
It can be challenging to find time to floss, but it’s worth it if you understand exactly why flossing is so vital. While your toothbrush can clean the surfaces of your teeth, it can’t reach their sides or the parts of the enamel under the gum line. Only flossing can do this, and these areas are especially important to scrub, since cavities on the sides of teeth are quite common, and the same decay-causing bacteria in plaque can lead to infection in the gums. You can be a brushing enthusiast and still develop serious dental issues if you’re not also a fastidious flosser.
If It Hurts…
If you’re asking: “should it hurt when I brush or floss?” the short answer is: no! If your mouth is healthy and you’re following proper oral hygiene protocols, it should not be uncomfortable to clean your teeth.
There are two basic reasons you might experience pain when you brush or floss:
1. You’re suffering from an oral health condition that requires treatment. If you have a cavity, gum disease, infected tooth root, fracture, or another issue, your teeth could be particularly sensitive, and even the motion of brushing could irritate them. This is particularly true if you suffer from periodontal (gum) disease, since bleeding gums is a symptom of gingivitis. It may seem counter-intuitive, but if your gums are bleeding when you floss, this could be even greater reason to continue, since flossing would help clean the tissue.
2. You’re not using appropriate oral hygiene techniques when you clean your teeth. Brushing too hard could cause damage to your gums or worsen tooth sensitivity. Similarly, flossing too rough or in the wrong shape could be detrimental to your oral health.
In either case, we recommend seeing Dr. Flanagan for an appointment as soon as possible if brushing or flossing hurt. If you’re suffering from an oral condition, we can help you treat it (for example, we could provide a dental filling if a cavity is the issue). Should improper oral hygiene be the cause, we can also assess your methods and teach you better strategies to clean your teeth more comfortably at your next preventive care visit.
Contact Our Houston Dental Practice Today
If brushing or flossing is bothering you, it’s time to see us! Dr. Flanagan and our team can help you take care of your teeth while alleviating discomfort. To find out more and schedule your next appointment, contact us today!