Flossing in particular can play a key role in preventing bad breath because flossing, when done correctly, helps to remove the small particles of food that get stuck between your teeth and around your gums—those tricky places where toothbrushes can’t quite reach.

When food particles aren't removed they start to collect bacteria which can cause bad breath, and when the bacteria start to breed in between the teeth cavities can start in these hidden areas and very badly damage a tooth without being able to directly see it happening.  Dentists can find this problem on an x-ray before the tooth becomes painful.  It's a bit like an apple that looks really good on the outside, but then when we chance to have a closer looker, it has gone bad inside.  The problem with a tooth is that the core of the tooth is actually a pulp, which has nerves and blood vessels and is sterile.  When we have a cavity, the bacterial infection can allow bacteria to infiltrate the nerve, and then of course, the tooth becomes painful as it dies, and an abscess forms.

When left until the decay becomes very advanced, we need to consider whether to remove the tooth, or whether it can be saved with root canal treatment, and often a crown to support it now with the pressure of the bite.  The thing to keep in mind is that at a very early point the decay that was forming there may have been able to reversed with new remineralising tooth creams that are available, or a small filling may have been able to be placed.  When left too long though, decay in these areas shows itself with toothache, which is dull and throbbing, pus can drain through the bone, and sometimes even involves the face starting to swell up when the infection tracks into other parts of the face. I know it sounds just awful, but we do occasionally see where this happens.  Often the treatment to get a very badly damaged tooth back on track is very expensive because of the time and complex work that is needed to get the infection under control.

As well as this, in some patients their teeth become loose and wobbly, because the bacteria eat away at the jaw bone that holds the teeth in place, in a process known as periodontal disease. The bacteria can nest under the gum, and it hardens under there.  A dental hygienist, dentist or periodontist can remove the colonies when they are not too deep, but if they travel too far down the root of the tooth, or if the tooth becomes too loose, or painful, the teeth may end up having to be removed.  In fact, some people with advanced disease, end up with their teeth falling out! This disease in the jaw bone happens to around 20% of people around the world, and as yet researchers are not entirely certain as to why some people lose their teeth in this way. 

The GOOD NEWS is that we do know that daily brushing and effective flossing, 6 monthly dental examinations, professional scaling and cleaning at 6 month periods, and preventive x-rays can ensure that the supporting bone around the teeth is carefully monitored and checked.


Plaque on floss