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More Reasons Why You Should Floss

Still Not Flossing? More Reasons Why You Should

Every six months, you visit the dentist for a cleaning — and likely a
lecture about 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.

“There is no instant gratification with flossing — that’s the problem,”
says Alla Wheeler, RDH, MPA, associate professor of the Dental Hygiene Program
at the New York UniversitySchool of Dentistry. “Patients don’t think it
does anything.”

Brush Up Naturally

By Ellen Strum

Find out how herbal and natural ingredients can refresh your mouth-care

Walk down the mouth-care aisle, and you’ll find several products that tout
being natural or herbal. In fact, Americans spent $386,000,000 on natural oral
hygiene products in 2002, up nearly 15 percent from 2001, according to
Nutrition Business magazine. About nine percent of Americans choose
natural oral hygiene products over the non-natural commercial ones.
According to Dr. Earl Mindell,…

Read the Brush Up Naturally article

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,”Wheeler
explains. “Floss is the only thing that can really get into that space between
the teeth and remove bacteria.”

Flossing, Wheeler says, might also be an overlooked fountain of youth. Gum
disease can ruin the youthful aesthetics of your smile by eating away at gums
and teeth. It also attacks the bones that support your teeth and the lower
third of your face. People who preserve the height of that bone by flossing
look better as they age.

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

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. “I tell my
patients, ‘I don’t care if you use shoe laces as long as you floss,'” Wheeler
says. (Just kidding, of course.)

Flossing Tips

Keep it clean with these flossing tips from Edmond Hewlett, DDS, associate
professor of restorative dentistry at the University of California, Los
AngelesSchool of Dentistry:

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. Don’t let
that deter you,” Hewlett advises. 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.

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