How to floss your teeth – and why you should do it every day

For many people, flossing is a nuisance—just like taking out the trash and cleaning the bathroom. It's often one of those everyday things that people ignore and feel guilty about, creating an endless cycle of shame, disgust, and plaque.

Plaque is a sticky film containing bacteria that lives between teeth unless removed with brushing and flossing. Clearly, we failed at our jobs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 47.2% of Americans age 30 and older have some form of gum disease, which flossing can help prevent. A 2018 study found that only 32% of people 30 and older reported flossing once a day, while 68% reported flossing once a week.

Flossing came into its own in 2016, when the Associated Press published a report saying that when “… the federal government released its latest dietary guidelines this year, flossing recommendations had been removed without notice.

Not surprisingly, the American public celebrated, while dental health professionals protested.

“The fact that there have been no long-term, large-scale population studies on flossing does not mean that flossing is ineffective,” Dr. Timothy J. Iafolla told the National said the Institute of Health's “Ask the Experts” post. “This just goes to show that conducting large-scale, multi-year studies of individual health behaviors – of any kind, including flossing – is difficult and expensive.”

Dental health experts say that ultimately, flossing once a day is a must. Failure to do so increases the chances of cavities, cavities, gum problems, and other diseases.

Leena Palomo, professor and chair of the Ashman Department of Periodontics and Implantology at New York University College Research on its role in preventing gum disease is even clearer.

Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is an infection that damages the soft tissue around the teeth and is characterized by gums that are swollen, red, and bleed easily. Other symptoms of periodontitis include tender gums, persistent bad breath, and pus draining between the teeth and gums.

“In my practice, it's clear that people who floss daily have healthier gums and longer-lasting teeth,” Sivan Finkel, a professor at New York University School of Dentistry, tells WebMD. “In fact, patients with early-stage cavities can often get through Reverse cavities with daily flossing, brushing, and good oral hygiene. ”

Gum disease can cause your gum line to recede, the bone that supports your teeth to break down, and your teeth to fall out. Gingivitis is a common early form of gum disease.

Studies show that people with gum disease are two to three times more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular event. Gum disease is also linked to rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.

A 2023 study even found that people with gum disease or missing teeth experienced faster contractions in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays an important role in learning and memory.

If none of these findings convince you that you need to floss, maybe the fact that it helps control bad breath will. Just take the dental floss out from between your teeth and smell it, maybe you will be impressed.

To make this task easier, it doesn't matter when you floss (before or after brushing), as long as you do it once a day, according to the American Dental Association. Choose a time that works best for you. For example, if you tend to be too tired before bed, floss your teeth in the morning.

Start slow, Greg Gelfand, a board-certified cosmetic dentist in New York City, told Allure earlier this year.

“The truth is, most people don't floss and may be ashamed of their less-than-ideal oral care habits,” he says. “For some people, going from not flossing to changing their entire habit can be difficult.”

First, try flossing only your front teeth, then add flossing to your back teeth every day.

“With this phased approach, you can go from not flossing at all to hopefully developing a flossing habit,” Gelfand said.

It may be helpful to choose a floss that you like. Allure highlighted nine popular floss types, with Cocofloss Delicious Mint Dental Floss taking the number one spot.

How to floss

The American Dental Association gives the following guidelines to improve your flossing skills:

• Break off about 18 inches of floss and wrap most of it around one middle finger. Wrap the remaining floss around the same finger on your other hand.

• Hold the floss firmly between your thumb and index finger.

• Use gentle rubbing motions to guide the floss between the teeth.

• When the floss reaches the gum line, bend it into a “C” shape against a tooth and gently slide it into the space between the gum and tooth.

• Repeat this process for each tooth using a new section of floss, and don’t forget to floss behind the last tooth.

If you don't like traditional flossing, you can use pre-threaded floss with a pick or brush on the end, or use water flossing, which uses a gentle stream of water to rinse away food and plaque, the ADA says.

Click here for oral health products that receive the ADA Seal of Approval.

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