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What is flossing and why is it important?

Carol Jahn
Dentist
Flossing is one way to clean between your teeth. It involves wrapping a piece of soft string around your fingers and navigating it up and down between the teeth and below the gumline to remove the plaque and bacteria that cause gum disease.

Flossing is not easy and it requires a high level of expertise to effectively remove plaque. Contrary to popular belief, it is not superior to other products. If you have a hard time flossing, it is better to use a product that you like and is easier to use. Products that have been shown to work as well as dental floss at removing plaque and reducing bleeding and gingivitis include toothpicks, interdental brushes, and a Water Flosser.
Flossing is using a piece of floss (essentially very thin string) to clean between your teeth and around the gumline. They also make bristle "flossers" that look like a toothpick with a bristled end.

Flossing is important because it cleans plaque and food particles from in-between teeth and the gumline. These are places your toothbrush really can't reach. I would go as far to say flossing is just as important as brushing, although it's ok to do it once a day (as opposed to the several times a day we'd like you to use your toothbrush).

Cleaning between the teeth once a day with floss or interdental cleaners removes plaque from between the teeth, around the gum line and other areas where the toothbrush can't reach. By taking care of your teeth, eating a balanced diet and visiting your dentist regularly, you can have healthy teeth and an attractive smile your entire life.

Jonathan B. Levine, DMD
Prosthodontics
If you don't floss your teeth on a daily basis, you might as well start saving up for dentures. I cannot emphasize its importance enough. We all know we're supposed to do it, yet about 90 percent of us don't floss daily.

What your brushing can't reach, flossing can. It removes food particles and plaque that elude your toothbrush since the little stuff often hides behind and between the teeth. In fact, dentists consider it even more crucial in the prevention of tooth decay and periodontal disease than brushing.
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We all know how important it is to brush our teeth. It helps prevent cavities and promotes good oral hygiene, but brushing alone is not good enough. The surface between your teeth and under your gum line has to be cleaned as well, and these areas cannot be reached with a toothbrush -- that is where flossing comes into play. Flossing is a tooth-cleaning technique that uses a small piece of thread-like material, called floss, to clean these hard to reach areas. Flossing once a day is a vital part of preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Think of it this way: If you’re not flossing, more than a third of your tooth surfaces are not getting effectively cleaned on a regular basis. Not only can this lead to expensive dental procedures, but it could also cause bad breath.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.