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    7 Excuses for Not Flossing and How to Conquer Them

    By Tracy Brown
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS

    Flossing your teeth is more important to your well-being than even brushing. So why do so many of us find reasons not to do it?

    We’ve got excuses, but dentists have simple answers for them all.

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    Excuse No. 1: Food Never Gets Stuck In My Teeth

    The main purpose of flossing isn’t to remove food from the teeth. It’s to get rid of plaque. Busting out the floss every day prevents gum disease and tooth loss. Everybody gets plaque, and it can only be removed by flossing or a deep cleaning from your dentist.

    Excuse No. 2: I Don’t Know How to Floss

    It's “the most difficult personal grooming activity there is,” says Samuel B. Low, DDS, past president of the American Association of Periodontology. But it’s one of the most important to learn.

    Use these tips to floss correctly:

    • Use 18 inches of floss. Wrap most of it around the middle finger of one hand, the rest around your other middle finger.
    • Grasp the string tightly between your thumb and forefinger, and use a rubbing motion to guide it between teeth.
    • When the floss reaches the gum line, form a C to follow the shape of the tooth.
    • Hold the strand firmly against the tooth, and move it gently up and down.
    • Repeat with the other tooth, and then repeat the entire process with the rest of your teeth.
    • Use fresh sections of floss as you go.

    Don’t forget the back of your last molars. “By far, most gum disease and most decay occurs in the back teeth,” Low says.

    Excuse No. 3: I’m Not Coordinated Enough to Floss

    If you have trouble reaching the back of your mouth, ask your dentist about:

    • Plastic, disposable, Y-shaped flossers that allow for extra reach
    • Small, round brushes
    • Pointed, rubber tips
    • Wooden or plastic pics (called interdental cleaners)

    A child will need your help to floss until he’s about 11 years old. Kids should start to floss as soon as they have two teeth that touch.

    How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

    Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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    You are currently

    Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

    Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

    SOURCES:

    American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

    This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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