Facts on Flossing

Bad Bacteria

You may not realize it, but even when your mouth is clean, it's full of bacteria. These naturally occurring microorganisms like to eat even the most minute leftover food particles, after which they deposit a sticky residue on the teeth called 'plaque'. Of course, this substance accumulates throughout the day, especially in places where toothbrushes can't reach. Left to harden into tartar, plaque build-up irritates your gums and can trigger inflammation and gum disease. Sound like a nasty situation? It doesn't have to be. In fact, you can virtually eliminate all such plaque by carefully brushing and properly flossing, every day.

It's really that simple: your toothbrush cleans the tops and sides of your teeth, while the floss cleans between them, actually polishes your tooth surfaces and controls bad breath. So, in just an extra two or three minutes, you've taken a giant step in the war against those bad bacteria.

Two Techniques

Correct flossing is a fairly easy thing to learn: either via the spool method, if you're quite dexterous, or via the loop method if you're less nimble with your fingers. To use the spool method, simply pull off about 18 inches of floss, winding most of it lightly around your middle finger. Don't pull tightly, and cut off your circulation! Then, wind the remaining floss around your other hand's middle finger, to take up the used floss as you go. Now, push the floss in between your teeth using your index fingers and thumbs. Gently bring the floss up and down several times around both sides of each tooth, making sure to reach below the gum line, forming a 'C' around each tooth with the floss. Pull or push it against your gums carefully, so that you don't hurt them; avoid rubbing it from side to side.

To use the loop method, pull off an 18-inch strand of floss, then make it into a circle. Tie the circle with three secure knots, placing all of your fingers (not your thumb) within the loop. Next, use your index fingers to direct the floss through your lower teeth, and your thumbs to direct it through your upper teeth. Again, be sure to clean below the gum line, and make the floss form a 'C' around the sides of each tooth.

If you're not especially skilled with your hands, or if you have to floss someone else's teeth for them, you may even want to consider a pre-threaded 'flosser' or floss holder.

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