Flossing should be a daily habit, but for many people, it’s something that goes forgotten for days or even weeks. It’s easy to forget about flossing until your dentist reminds you at your checkup, but flossing an essential part of dental hygiene.

Why is flossing important?

Some people believe that brushing and using mouthwash are enough to keep your mouth clean. However, dental floss can clean the areas of your teeth that your toothbrush can’t reach, and flossing can prevent a variety of problems.

Prevents Tartar Buildup

Tartar is a buildup of hardened plaque along the gums. Once tartar forms, your dentist or dental hygienist will have to remove it, and the scraping to get rid of it can feel uncomfortable. Flossing prevents tartar from building up by removing plaque before it hardens.

Protects Gums

When plaque builds up along your gums, it can cause inflammation and lead to gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease. If this goes untreated, it can eventually lead to periodontitis, which causes damage to the alveolar bone in the jaw and can result in tooth loss. Flossing every day greatly reduces your risk of gum disease.

Prevents Cavities

With brushing, it’s impossible to reach the side of a tooth that touches another tooth. Flossing removes plaque and food debris from between your teeth, effectively preventing dental cavities and tooth decay.

Reduces Risk of Heart Disease

Harmful bacteria can enter the body from the mouth and eventually reach cardiac tissue, which can cause inflammation known as endocarditis. Flossing helps to remove harmful bacteria from your mouth, reducing your risk of heart disease. People who suffer from heart disease can also reduce their risk of complications by flossing daily.

Reduces Bad Breath

Bad breath isn’t as serious of an issue as heart disease, but it can be a problem. Brushing and using mouthwash are helpful for reducing bad breath, but flossing can make a big difference as well. One major reason some people have bad breath, or halitosis, is dental plaque or food debris stuck between the teeth.

Tips for Flossing

Flossing daily is important for oral hygiene, but you also need to floss with the right technique. According to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, there are four steps to proper flossing:

1. Wind about 18 inches of floss around your middle fingers and pinch the floss between your thumbs and index fingers on each hand, leaving two inches in between.
2. Use your index fingers to guide the dental floss between two of your teeth.
3. Use a zigzag motion to glide the floss in between your teeth. Avoid snapping the floss between your teeth or roughly pushing down. Once you’ve reached the base of the tooth, curve the floss around the tooth.
4. Slide the dental floss up and down until the tooth is thoroughly cleaned.

Repeat this process for every tooth, using a clean section of the dental floss each time. You can use the same technique for dental tape or any other type of floss.

If you’re not in the habit of flossing regularly, it can be difficult to remember every day. To remind yourself, leave your dental floss right next to your toothbrush or toothpaste so you don’t overlook it. You can also try taping a note to your bathroom mirror with a reminder.