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Oral Care and Health Daily

5 Biggest Flossing Mistakes

Not flossing often enough is just the beginning. Here are the top blunders and how to correct them t...

To help prevent gum disease, the Rx is simple: Floss often. Floss properly. And -- unlike with voting -- floss late.

But many of us aren’t flossing often or well enough to maintain a healthy mouth, says Dr. Stuart L. Segelnick, a periodontist in Brooklyn, N.Y. Only 13.5 percent of 622 dental patients Segelnick surveyed floss daily as recommended. And 60 percent are doing it wrong.

Why should you care? Flossing helps prevent gum disease. As your dentist may tell you: You don’t have to floss all your teeth -- only the ones you want to keep.

Here are the five biggest flossing mistakes and how to brush up on your technique.

1. You don’t floss daily.

Research shows healthy gums can progress to gum disease within 24 hours if teeth aren’t cleansed properly, says Dr. Lisa Marie Samaha, a dentist in Newport News, Va. Actually, for a healthy mouth, you should be flossing at least nightly. That’s because your body’s salivary glands, which help neutralize bacteria, slow down while you sleep. So flossing before bed gets the bacteria out before your saliva glands take a break.

2. You snap the floss.

Snapping the floss into the gums may cut the attachment of gum tissue to the teeth, says Samaha. Instead, gently glide the floss. If you have trouble, try floss designed specifically for tight teeth.

3. You saw the floss.

If you saw, or simply thread the floss in and out, you won’t get into the crevice between the gum and tooth -- which harbors the bacteria that causes gum disease. Instead, hold the floss in a C shape and cup each tooth, say Samaha and Segelnick.

4. You “floss” with fingernails, paper clips and other sharp objects.

“People gouge their gums and cause damage,” says Samaha. Your No. 1 tool: dental floss -- waxed or unwaxed. Other acceptable options: round toothpicks, plastic toothpicks with floss on the end, or a set of small picks with brushes on the ends.

5. You think brushing is more important.

Although studies show many more people brush than floss, if it came down to one or the other, the choice is simple, says Samaha: floss. The majority of gum disease begins between the teeth, and flossing is the only way to effectively reach that area.