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Still Not Flossing? More Reasons Why You Should

Every six months, you visit the dentist for cleaning — and likely discuss the importance of flossing. But if you’re like many dental patients, the advice travels in one ear and out the other — much like, well, dental floss gliding between the spaces of your teeth.But flossing does about 40% of the work required to remove sticky bacteria, or plaque, from your teeth. Plaque generates acid, which can cause cavities, irritate the gums, and lead to gum disease.

Each tooth has five surfaces. If you don’t floss, you are leaving at least two of the surfaces unclean. Floss is the only thing that can really get into that space between the teeth and remove bacteria.

Choosing the Right Dental Floss

Most floss is made of either nylon or Teflon, and both are equally effective. People with larger spaces between their teeth or with gum recession (loss of gum tissue, which exposes the roots of the teeth) tend to get better results with a flat, wide dental tape. If your teeth are close together, try thin floss (sometimes made of Gore-Tex) that bills itself as shred resistant.

Bridges and braces call for a defter touch to get underneath the restorations or wires and between the teeth. Use a floss threader, which looks like a plastic sewing needle. Or look for a product called Super Floss that has one stiff end to fish the floss through the teeth followed by a spongy segment and regular floss for cleaning.

The most important thing, though, is to choose floss you’ll use.

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Flossing Tips

Keep it clean with these flossing tips:

Perfect your flossing technique. Use a piece of floss 15 to 18 inches long, slide it between the teeth, wrap it around each tooth in the shape of a “C,” and polish with an up and down motion.

Don’t worry about a little blood. Bleeding means the gums are inflamed because plaque has built up and needs to be cleaned away. Bleeding after a few days, however, could be a sign of periodontal disease. Talk to your dentist.

Get a floss holder. If you lack the hand dexterity to floss, try soft wooden plaque removers, which look similar to toothpicks, or a two-pronged plastic floss holder. Both allow you to clean between teeth with one hand.