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Spring has sprung, and we are all coming out of our winter shells ready to take on the beautiful world. They key to a great smile is a healthy mouth, and one of the most important keys to a healthy mouth is flossing daily. Flossing helps prevent gum disease and cavities. But it can be tricky navigating all the cracks and crevices in your mouth. Knowing good technique can make your time flossing much more productive.

First, use enough floss. 18 inches is typically enough. It might seem like a lot, but you will wind most of it around one of your middle fingers. Start winding the rest around the other, too. Eventually you will use this finger to “spool” used floss on. Together with your thumbs and index fingers, this setup will give you better tension and control.

Guide the floss between your teeth with a gentle back-and-forth motion to avoid slapping it into the gum. Once the floss has reached the gum line, pull it against one tooth. Gently rub the side of that tooth in an up-and-down motion, repeating for all teeth. Be sure and floss behind your backmost molar, too. Never re-use old floss.

Flossing between back teeth or teeth that are very close can be especially difficult, but it is important to be thorough. Your gums will be healthier, and damaging particles that normal brushing misses are dislodged.