A woman stands in front of the bathroom mirror while pulling a piece of dental floss from a floss dispenser. Share on Pinterest
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Regular flossing plays a crucial role in your dental hygiene. When you skip flossing, plaque can build up between your teeth and along your gumline. Over time, this can increase your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), interdental cleaners such as floss play a vital role in removing plaque and debris from areas that a toothbrush can’t reach.

Read on to learn more about the key benefits of flossing and how often and when you should floss. If you’re looking for alternatives to floss for interdental cleaning, we have that covered, too.

Digging out a lingering piece of popcorn or removing some leftover spinach from between your teeth feels really good.

But, in addition to helping your teeth and gums look and feel good, flossing also has many other benefits. Let’s look at these benefits in more detail.

1. Gets rid of plaque

Plaque is a colorless sticky film that collects around and between your teeth and along your gumline. Although it’s difficult to see, plaque isn’t something you want lingering in your mouth for very long.

Plaque forms on and around your teeth when bacteria in your mouth mix with starchy or sugary foods and drinks. These bacteria release acids that break down carbohydrates. If you don’t brush your teeth, the bacteria, acids, and carbohydrates can mix together to form a film of plaque on and around your teeth and gumline.

The bacteria in plaque can release acids that attack your tooth enamel. If these acids aren’t removed with brushing and flossing, it can, over time, lead to cavities.

What’s more, a buildup of plaque can harden and turn into tartar, which collects along your gumline. When this happens, you increase the risk of developing gum disease, according to the ADA.

Regular flossing can help remove food particles from around your teeth, as well as plaque that’s built up between your teeth.

2. Reduces the risk of cavities

Tooth decay can result in a cavity, which causes a tiny opening or hole in the hard surface of your teeth known as enamel.

Although this process takes time, the more plaque you have on the enamel of your teeth, the higher your risk of developing a cavity.

Flossing between your teeth at least once a day can help get rid of hidden food particles and plaque buildup, and lower your risk of tooth decay.

3. Helps prevent gum disease

Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease. One of the first signs of gingivitis is inflammation around your gums. Your gums may also bleed when you brush or floss your teeth.

If gingivitis isn’t treated, it can lead to a more serious infection known as periodontitis. This can cause your gums to recede or pull away from your teeth. Your teeth may lose bone support and become loose. If not treated, periodontitis can cause an inflammatory response throughout your body.

Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day can help reduce your risk of gum disease. Professional cleanings done by your dentist every 6 months can also help keep your gums healthy.

4. Reduces bad breath

Bad breath (halitosis) is a common problem. But flossing is one of the tools you can use to keep bad breath away.

When food gets trapped between your teeth, it slowly starts to decay. If you don’t remove the food particles, it can cause you to have foul-smelling breath.

Also, if plaque builds up around or between your teeth and starts eroding your tooth enamel, it can cause cavities and gum disease, which contribute to bad breath.

5. May help your heart health

Good dental hygiene doesn’t only benefit your teeth and gums. It may benefit your heart health, too.

According to a large 2019 study, participants who adhered to a high standard of oral hygiene had a decreased risk of atrial fibrillation and heart failure.

That said, the American Heart Association says a connection between oral health and heart health may have more to do with a link between the health of your mouth and the overall health of your body.

Regardless, flossing your teeth is a simple, low-cost way to help boost your oral hygiene as well as your overall health.

The ADA recommends brushing your teeth for 2 minutes twice a day and flossing at least once a day. Some people prefer to floss during their morning routine, while others like one final cleaning before bed.

It’s generally recommended that you floss your teeth before brushing them. When you floss, you typically loosen food particles and plaque around your teeth. The brushing action then helps to remove the plaque and particles that you’ve removed from your teeth and gum line.

Standard dental floss generally comes in two varieties: waxed and unwaxed. Choosing between the two often comes down to personal preference, especially since the ADA claims there’s no difference between the effectiveness of the two types. If your teeth are closer together or crowded, a wax coating may make it easier to get into those tight spaces.

Floss also comes in tape form, which is broader and flat and works well if you have gaps in your teeth.

Additionally, if you have braces, bridges, or gaps, you may want to try a super floss. This type of floss has a regular floss thread, spongy floss, and a dental floss threader with a stiff end.

If you find traditional floss hard to use, there are some floss alternatives you can try, such as:

These tools allow you to use water, air, or small brushes that are similar to a mascara wand, to clean the sides and between your teeth.

According to the ADA, these are all acceptable tools for removing food and debris from your teeth.

Flossing your teeth at least once a day is just one step in a healthy oral hygiene routine. For optimum dental health, you’ll also want to consider the following:

Flossing your teeth regularly is a vital part of your dental health routine. In addition to removing food and debris from between your teeth, regular flossing has several other important benefits.

By removing food particles and preventing plaque from building up, flossing each day may reduce your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Flossing can also prevent food from decaying between your teeth which, in turn, may help prevent bad breath. Some evidence also suggests that regular brushing and flossing may reduce your risk of heart issues.

Try to floss your teeth at least once a day, preferably before you brush your teeth.