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We know the importance of brushing twice a day, but when it comes to flossing, most Americans forgo this equally as important activity. In fact, WebMD reports only 49% of Americans floss daily, while 10% admit to never flossing at all. Floss is designed specifically to clean the tight spaces between the teeth and the gap between the base of the teeth and gums. The Center or Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 47.2% (64.7 million American adults) experience mild to severe periodontitis, which is the more advanced form of periodontal disease. How do we prevent this progression of disease in the mouth? By brushing and flossing daily. –Facts obtained from previous Smiles Dental blog post “The 411 on Floss.”—

Time and knowledge are the top contributing reasons we “forget” to floss. Luckily, innovations in dentistry have created tools that make flossing a much quicker part of the daily routine. Once flossing becomes a daily habit, it’s hard to “forget” it ever again. If floss itself is hard to manage, try one of these options, outlined by ToothWisdom.org:

  • Floss Holders—a handle that holds the floss and allows the user to floss with one hand. These can be disposable or reusable (just change out the floss after each use).
  • Floss Threaders—flexible plastic nylon used to thread floss under fixed bridges or retainer bars
  • Proxi Brushes—a small, pointed brush on a handle that cleans between teeth when space is available
  • Stimudents/Toothpicks—disposable plastic or wood tools similar to toothpicks that can be inserted in the space between teeth

If you are able, using traditional flossing techniques, explained by the ADHA, is a great way to ensure your entire mouth is clean.

  1. Wind 18″ of floss around middle fingers of each hand. Pinch floss between thumbs and index fingers, leaving a 1″- 2″ length in between. Use thumbs to direct floss between upper teeth and index fingers to direct floss between lower teeth.
  2. Gently guide floss between the teeth by using a zig-zag, motion. Wrap floss around the side of the tooth, forming a “C”, and slide up and down against the tooth surface and under the gumline. Floss each tooth thoroughly with a clean section of floss.

If you have trouble using floss, or are unsure of the proper flossing technique, talk to your dentist or hygienist. They are here to help you keep your mouth clean and are happy to demonstrate or make recommendations for your flossing habits.

The Mayo Clinic offers some great tips on keeping up with your flossing habit. First of all, make sure to use an ample amount of floss each time; the Mayo Clinic recommends an 18 inch string. As the gums are a soft, sensitive part of your mouth, it is important to be gentle when flossing. Try not to saw the gums or snap the floss between teeth as this can cause the tissue to be sore or bleed. Finally, make flossing a routine habit that is done every day. Keeping with this activity will ensure overall health, strengthen the gums, and alleviate the effects of tooth decay from oral bacteria.

For more information and resources regarding National Dental Hygiene Month or flossing habits, visit http://www.adha.org/national-dental-hygiene-month.