After overindulging during the holidays, many of us will make resolutions to eat better and exercise as we work to achieve better health. But did you know that poor oral health can affect your overall health? If becoming more healthy this year is one of your goals, a good oral hygiene routine that includes flossing should be on your list of resolutions.

Though both brushing and flossing are important, most dentists will tell you that flossing daily is even more important than brushing in maintaining oral health! Cleaning between your teeth with floss can help prevent cavities and gum disease by removing plaque that often accumulates there. Plaque contains bacteria that feed on leftover food and sugar in your mouth. When this happens, it releases an acid that weakens the adjacent enamel causing cavities. If plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar (or calculus) which collects along and below the gum line causing gum disease and bone loss. Once tartar forms, only your dentist or hygienist can remove it. Also, many medical studies have shown a link between gum disease and heart disease. We now believe that if excessive oral bacteria enter the bloodstream, it can lead to atherosclerosis, so removal of this bacteria from your teeth and gums is important for the health of your arteries as well!

Using the proper technique when flossing is critical as simply snapping the floss between the teeth does not remove much plaque. Begin by breaking off about 18 inches of floss and winding most of it around one of your middle fingers. Wind the remaining floss around your opposite middle finger and then hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers. Guide the floss gently between your teeth, and when the floss reaches the gum line, curve the floss into a C shape against the side of one tooth. While maintaining this C shape, slide the floss into the space between the tooth and gum and gently rub the side of the tooth with up and down motions going under the gums. Curve the floss into a C around the adjacent tooth and repeat the motion. Repeat this process on every tooth in your mouth including the backside of the very last tooth in each corner of your mouth.

Starting and maintaining a new habit can be difficult. Though flossing may be uncomfortable and your gums may bleed a bit when you first begin, stick with it! The discomfort and bleeding should ease within a week or two, and your teeth, gums, and arteries will be happier and healthier thanks to your effort!

Dr. Cristi Cheek of Cheek DentalDr. Cristi Cheek is the owner of Cheek Dental here in East Cobb. You may contact her at 770-993-3775 or visit

This article originally appeared in our January issue of EAST COBBER, on page 9. Click here to view the digital edition.