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Proper Flossing

Floss at least once a day

Flossing is an essential part of the tooth-cleaning process because it breaks up and removes plaque from between teeth and at the gumline, where periodontal disease often begins. Flossing has many health benefits.

If you find using floss awkward or difficult, ask your dentist, hygienist or dental assistant about the variety of dental floss holders or interdental cleaning devices that are available.

Did you know that without flossing, 40% of the surfaces of your teeth are NEVER clean?


Flossing Technique

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.
Hold the floss like this

Keep a 1" - 2" length of floss taut between fingers. Use index fingers to guide floss between contacts of the lower teeth. Use index fingers to guide floss

Gently guide floss between the teeth by using a zig-zag motion. DO NOT SNAP FLOSS BETWEEN YOUR TEETH. Contour floss around the side of the tooth. Gently guide floss between the teeth

Slide floss up and down against the tooth surface and under the gumline. Floss each tooth thoroughly with a clean section of floss. Slide floss up and down against the tooth surface

--Illustrations adapted by and used courtesy of the John O. Butler Company--
Benefits of flossing:
• Decreased risk of gum disease
• Better breath
• Removes plaque in between teeth
• Polishes tooth surfaces

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Picking a Dental Floss

It’s amazing how much variety you can find in dental floss. From regular dental floss or ribbon to dental flossers, it’s easy to find something that works well for you. All types remove cavity-causing plaque and food debris from between your teeth. Here are a few of your choices:

•        Dental Flossers - Often regarded as being easier to manage than conventional floss, flossers are a popular choice. There’s no need to wrap any excess thread around your fingers, which some find uncomfortable.
•        Conventional Floss – There’s nothing wrong with sticking with traditional types of floss. Just tear off a piece at least 18 inches long and wind it around your index fingers. If you find traditional thread-like floss is uncomfortable for your gums, try dental ribbon, its smoother counterpart.
•        Floss Threaders – If you have a fixed bridge in your mouth, it doesn’t mean you get out of flossing. Nifty little floss threaders allow you to thread (gasp!) the floss between your teeth, under the bridge work.

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Floss to avoid periodontitis   

  Flossing matters!:  People who have both gum disease and a high body mass index, were more likely to have increased C-reactive protein-a serum in blood that is a marker for heart disease.  Archives of Internal Medicine 12/03      

      Don't be discouraged with your first attempts at flossing, you will improve with time and practice :-) Your gums may bleed and be sore the first few days that you floss however they will heal and stop bleeding in a couple of days once the bacteria are removed.  

The Flosser

If you don't have good finger dexterity, try a commercial tooth flosser or an automatic flosser like the one made by Waterpik:~

      The loop method is suited for children or adults with less nimble hands, poor muscular coordination or arthritis. Take an 18-inch piece of floss and make it into a circle. Tie it securely with three knots.

      Place all of the fingers, except the thumb, within the loop. Use your index fingers to guide the floss through the lower teeth, and use your thumbs to guide the floss through the upper teeth, going below the gumline forming a "C" on the side of the tooth.  Most children cannot floss their own teeth properly until about the age of 10 so they will need your help and encouragement.

Is it safe to use toothpicks?
In a pinch, toothpicks are effective at removing food between teeth, but for daily cleaning of plaque between teeth, floss is recommended. Toothpicks come round and flat, narrow and thick. When you use a toothpick, don't press too hard as you can break off the end and lodge it in your gums.

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Pull the floss tight between your two index fingers

Flossing Facts:

bulletA good tip is to establish a regular routine and time for flossing so you don't forget 
bulletIf you're only brushing, and not flossing, you're only cleaning 60 percent of your teeth.
bulletNo time to floss? Floss your upper teeth in the morning, lower teeth in the evening
bulletFlossing disturbs bacteria and stops it before it can create plaque and cause gum and bone disease.  Floss once a day for a healthier set of teeth and gums
bulletFlossing helps to remove plaque from in between your teeth.  Brushing only cleans three fourths of your teeth's surfaces.  That means if you brush and don't floss it is like not cleaning seven of your teeth! 
bulletFlossing cleans the areas your toothbrush can not reach-the tooth surfaces between your teeth.

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 10 Excuses for Not Flossing

  1. My hands are too big, or I have no dexterity...power flossers can solve this problem
  2. Flossing pushes food down into the pocket...flossing cleans about 30% of the tooth's surface... its cleans out food and plaque.
  3. My gums bleed..........this is a sign you REALLY need to start flossing because you have an infection in your gums.
  4. I get my teeth professional cleaned twice a year, so I don't have to brush or floss...plaque can turn to hard calculus in less than 2 days...daily cleaning is needed to keep your teeth clean.
  5. It takes too long............through brushing and flossing can take less than only 10 minutes.
  6. Is get in the way of sex life?........gum disease can pass through saliva so kissing your loved ones can put them at risk of contracting gum disease.
  7. Los
  8. My teeth are too tight for the floss....try a polymer floss that is ADA approved or use the flosser.
  9. I'm afraid of damaging my gums when I floss...the technique is so important....remember to slide the floss between the gum and teeth with light pressure.
  10. I forgot my floss..........no floss?  Try chewing on a stick?  Use of Miswak chewing sticks have been found to  help with preventing gum disease.
    Dentistry Today pg 42  February 2003

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Flossing Updates



Flossing Needed to Fight Gum Disease

There’s new evidence that brushing teeth alone may not be enough to fight gum disease. In a study released in the American Journal of Periodontology (August 2006) researchers compared the effects of twice daily flossing and tooth brushing vs. brushing alone in 51 sets of twins, aged 12 to 21. One twin manually brushed the teeth and tongue twice a day for two weeks; the other twin was given the same instructions in addition to using dental floss twice a day. Before and after the study, researchers examined both groups for evidence of gum bleeding and bad breath. The results showed the group that flossed had 38% fewer bleeding gum sites than before the intervention and overall gum bleeding improved by an average of 42%. In the brushing-only group the number of bleeding gum sites increased by nearly 4%.

Flossing Still RECOMMENDED for Oral Health Care
cited ada.org

The American Dental Association (ADA) is aware of the recent preliminary injunction against a mouthwash manufacturer's advertising claim that its mouth rinse is as effective as flossing. The ADA continues to recommend flossing as part of a good oral hygiene regimen. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends to brush twice a day and clean between the teeth with floss or interdental cleaners once each
day to remove plaque from all tooth surfaces
. Plaque is responsible for both tooth decay and gum disease.

Regarding the studies, the authors concluded that in patients with mild to moderate gingivitis (early periodontal (gum) disease), rinsing twice a day with the antiseptic mouth rinse was as effective as flossing for reducing plaque and gingivitis between the teeth. The
studies did not examine whether the mouth rinse had the same effect
as floss on reducing tooth decay or periodontitis (advanced periodontal (gum) disease). Flossing and interdental cleaners also help remove food debris caught between teeth that may not be rinsed away.

The ADA recommends the following for good oral hygiene: Brush your teeth twice a day with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner. Decay– causing bacteria still linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles can't reach. Flossing removes plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line. Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.
Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams. Talk to your dentist about what types of oral care products will be most effective for you. Replace your toothbrush every three or four months , or sooner if the bristles become frayed. A worn toothbrush will not do a good job of cleaning your teeth. Children's toothbrushes often need replacing more frequently than adults because they can wear out sooner.

*Sharma, et. al., Am. J. Dent. 15:351-355, 2002.
Bauroth, et.al., J. Am. Dent. Assn. 134:359-365, Mar 2003

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A good oral hygiene regimen includes daily flossing.

ADA has teamed up with Johnson & Johnson Oral Health Products for a new advertising campaign promoting the benefits of flossing.

"Flossing Matters: Daily Flossing is Essential to Your Oral Health" is the theme on flossing and its role in preventive oral health."Johnson & Johnson approached us with the idea to start a campaign to dentists and the public about flossing, why that's important to patients and develop tools to help patients learn,All materials related to the campaign will emphasize the consistency of the ADA's recommendations on flossing.

Johnson & Johnson market research shows that 87 percent of patients floss infrequently or not at all.  It's an alarming number that tells us more patients need to floss on a regular basis. Partnering with the American Dental
Association is the best way to raise awareness of the need to floss, as patients will seek oral hygiene advice from their dentist first."

By Karen Fox ADA

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A new US survey has outlined the different oral hygiene habits of men and women. Conducted for the American Dental Association's (ADA) 2003. 1,014 nationally representative adults were interviewed for the survey. It was found that women take better care of their teeth than men. However, overall American adults recorded a slight increase among those brushing twice a day or after each meal to 78 percent in 2003, compared with 1997's 75.4 percent. The most dramatic jump in brushing frequency occurred in the number of respondents saying they brushed after every meal, reaching 24.8 percent in 2003 compared with 11.5 percent in the 1997 survey. The daily use of dental floss or an interdental cleaner rose slightly to 50.5 percent in 2003 compared with 1997's 48.2 percent. Being thorough in your daily oral hygiene lays the groundwork for a healthy smile. A daily routine of brushing and flossing, in addition to regular dental checkups, can be enough in most cases to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. 6/04

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~We have NO financial interest in this product.

Explore health benefits from flossing: Floss or Die


February 06, 2008

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