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Brushing may be the cornerstone of dental care, but flossing is a close second when it comes to preventing tooth decay and gum disease. After the toothbrush finishes its job cleaning the tops and sides of teeth, flossing gets rid of tiny bits of food and carries away bacteria that can build up and cause dental problems.
As expensive as dental work is these days, it's important to keep up with regular visits to the dentist. When families can't afford dental insurance, they can try discount dental plans that provide many oral health services at greatly reduced prices.
But between regular check-ups, dentists recommend brushing at least twice daily and flossing at least once - and preferably twice - each day. It's a necessary addition to the professional care they provide.
Once it becomes a daily habit, flossing only takes about two or three minutes. According to Colgate.com, about 18 inches of dental floss will allow one to wind the floss well around fingers on each hand and create the tautness needed to maneuver near each tooth. It's important to get slightly under the gumline by gently curving the floss around the bottom of each tooth, then slide the dental floss up and down between the teeth to fight plaque build-up there as well.
Multifilament or monofilament?
There are the two types of floss, and each has advantages. Nylon (multifilament) floss comes in different flavors and is available in unwaxed or waxed versions. Waxed floss works better between teeth with fillings or crowns. However, it's more likely to shred at close contact points when the separate nylon strands may separate.
PTFE (monofilament) slides most easily and doesn't shred. For this convenience, it's a little more expensive.
There are also wide-sized flosses available for people who have a lot of dental bridges or wide spaces between each tooth.
An alternative is to use flossers, which are disposable flossing tools that hold a short strand taut within the instrument, which resembles a tiny hacksaw. A small handle allows one to slide the floss between teeth and maneuver easily into tight spots. People with limited dexterity or arthritis may find flossers easier to use, according to KnowYourTeeth.com.
While not as effective as flossing, water picks also remove food particles by loosening them with a stream of water aimed at spaces between teeth. They are especially helpful in cleaning out food bits that get caught in orthodontic braces.
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