How and why to floss

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Updated: 1/14/2003 2:29 pm
Dental floss helps to remove the harmful germs that attack your teeth and gums when plaque builds up, polishes your tooth surfaces, and controls bad breath. In addition to the front and back of your teeth, plaque builds up between your teeth and under your gum line and can't be reached with your toothbrush. Ask your dentist or hygienist how often you should floss and how to floss properly. If you haven't flossed before, or for quite some time, you may notice a slight bleeding of your gums, this is a sign that gum disease is present. As you start to floss daily, the bleeding and gum disease should stop. If it's excessive or doesn't stop within a few days, contact your dentist. Suggestions on flossing include using an 18' (eighteen inch) strand of floss and winding most of it around one of your middle fingers. As it becomes dirty or frayed, wind the floss around the same finger of the opposite hand. Hold the floss tightly between your thumb and forefinger and guide it gently between your teeth. Don't snap the floss against your gums or use a hard, back and forth sawing motion. As you reach the gum line, curve the floss around one tooth and gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth. Hold the floss firmly against your tooth using gentle up and down motions. Repeat this method on all of your teeth; remember your very back teeth, as they are the hardest to reach with your toothbrush. Finally, flossing is most effective if done at least once a day for two to three minutes at a time and combined with brushing properly and seeing your dentist on a regular basis.

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