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Flossing once a day helps fight gum disease and tooth decay

Flossing teeth is the single most important factor in preventing gum (periodontal) disease. Gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease, and advanced gum disease affect more than 75 percent of the U.S. population.

Flossing every 24 hours is just as important as brushing because it helps remove the plaque and debris that adhere to teeth and gums between the teeth. Flossing also helps polish the tooth's surface and control bad breath.

Whether waxed or unwaxed, flavored or unflavored, wide or regular size, floss of any type helps clean and remove plaque. Wide floss, also known as dental tape, may be a better choice for people with bridgework. Dental tape also is recommended when people have wider-than-average space between their teeth. Waxed floss can be easier to slide between closely spaced teeth. Unwaxed floss will squeak against cleaned teeth, indicating plaque has been removed.

Although mechanical flossing tools have been introduced, most dentists contend there is no substitute for manually flossing one's teeth.

Oral irrigation tools should not substitute for brushing and flossing because they do not remove plaque. However, such tools are useful for people who can't floss due to gum disease pain.

Information courtesy of the Academy of General Dentistry.