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Do I really need to floss?

Since you were a kid, your dentist told you to floss every night after you brush your teeth.

And you knew you were doing a great job when your dentist congratulated you at your annual checkup. But what happens if you have not been following this advice?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Dental Association1 stress the importance of flossing in removing plaque from between your teeth that brushing can’t.

A toothbrush helps you physically brush plaque off your teeth, while toothpaste helps cut down on bacteria in your mouth. However, flossing still carries big benefits that brushing and toothpaste do not.

A toothbrush helps you physically brush plaque off your teeth, while toothpaste helps cut down on bacteria in your mouth. However, flossing still carries big benefits that brushing and toothpaste do not.

A toothbrush’s bristles cannot adequately clean between your teeth, or under your gums.2 This is where flossing comes in to save the day.

In fact, flossing does about 40% of the heavy lifting needed to remove sticky plaque from your teeth.3

From cleaning between your teeth to boosting gum health, here’s how flossing every day helps keep your gums and smile healthy.

Is flossing really necessary?

Plaque is the mighty enemy of your oral health. Brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time is the most effective way to get rid of it.

So, is flossing really necessary? Yes, flossing before you brush can help make brushing more effective.4 With less plaque caught between your teeth, the fluoride in your toothpaste can access more surfaces of your teeth and gums. This means a healthier, shinier smile, and less money spent on fillings at your next trip to the dentist.

Floss cleans between teeth and under the gum

You’ve probably brushed your teeth after a meal before and still had particles of food stuck between molars or other teeth.

Floss is specially designed to remove plaque from the tight spaces between your teeth and under your gums that brushing can’t always access.

Plaque between your teeth and gum area can harden over time and create tartar, which your dentist will need to remove with a scraper. And unaddressed tartar buildup can lead to gingivitis, which is the first stage of gum disease.

Nothing’s fun about red, swollen gums, so in order to protect yourself from gum disease don’t ditch your flossing routine.

Flossing protects against bone loss

Gum disease is scary for your oral health, as it can lead to periodontal disease. And the inflammation from periodontal disease can spread to other parts of your body, like your heart.

But gum disease has another drawback — it can age you! It attacks the bones that support your teeth and the lower third of your face. Aesthetically speaking, you tend to look younger even as you age if this part of your facial structure remains strong.5 Flossing can help you preserve the strength of these bones by protecting your teeth and gums from decay.

How to floss correctly 

Even if you floss once a day, it won’t necessarily be effective without the right technique.

Follow these steps to become a pro-flosser in no time:6

  • Using around 18 inches of floss, wrap the ends around your fingertips.
  • Slide the floss gently between your teeth.
  • Curve the floss around your tooth and rub it up and down to scrape away plaque.
  • Rinse with mouthwash and brush your teeth.
  • Don’t use the same piece of floss again — it can fray and collect bacteria.

Should I stop flossing if my gums bleed?

If your gums bleed when you floss, you could either be flossing too hard, or your gums aren’t used to a flossing routine yet.

Flossing at least once a day will help your gums build up a tolerance. Talk to your dentist if you have any concerns about bleeding gums or questions about your flossing routine.

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Sources:

1. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/f/flossing (Last accessed December 2019)
2. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/brushing-your-teeth (Last accessed December 2019)
3. https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/still-not-flossing-more-reasons-why-you-should#1 (Last accessed December 2019)
4. http://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/floss (Last accessed December 2019)
5. https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/dental-tips-for-looking-younger#1 (Last accessed December 2019) 
6. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/f/flossing-steps (Last accessed December 2019)

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.
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