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12 Habits That Can Save Your Life

Floss Daily

Floss Daily

You know that brushing your teeth is key to a healthy smile. But brushing only removes about 80% of plaque, the sticky substance on the surface of teeth.

If you’re not flossing, you’re missing plaque in between teeth. When plaque isn’t removed, it combines with the sugar and starches from your diet to produce an acid that breaks down tooth enamel and causes tooth decay and gum disease. If left untreated, the bacteria in plaque can spread and go beyond the gum line, digging into the ligaments and bones that hold teeth in place. This condition — periodontitis — is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults. Severe periodontitis has also been linked to increased risk of stroke and heart attack, which may be due to inflammation and bacteria in the blood.

Grab a few extra minutes during your brushing routine to floss — the American Dental Association recommends cleaning between the teeth with dental floss (or another interdental cleaner, like a water flosser) once a day. 

By Brittany Doohan. Brittany Doohan is a health and lifestyle writer living in San Francisco. Additional reporting by Katie Lewin. Published February 26, 2013.
Reviewed by Joseph Sclafani, MD on April 16, 2015.