Just can’t get in the habit of flossing every day? You know it’s good for your gums and teeth and can help prevent bad breath, but consider this: Scientists recently discovered bacteria linked to gum disease in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients…and research shows that people with gum disease are more likely to get heart disease and diabetes. If this doesn’t have you reaching for the dental floss right now, here are some other tricks to get you on track…

  • Get gross. The following advice may seem extreme, but it works—tape a photo showing the ravages of periodontal disease (search for one online) in a prominent place in your bathroom. After your first month of daily flossing, replace it with an image of a healthy white smile as positive reinforcement.
  • Try different flosses—one type isn’t more effective than another. The point is to find a floss that you’re comfortable with so that you’ll be more likely to use it regularly. In general, there are two types—multifilament (nylon) and single filament (plastic/rubber). Multifilament floss has been around for a long time and is cheaper. It comes unwaxed or waxed. Single filament uses newer technology—it doesn’t rip, tear or fray and glides very easily between the teeth even though it isn’t waxed. These products are available in a wide variety of flavors, including mint, cinnamon, cranberry and tea tree oil. Try a bunch!
  • Floss while doing something else—while in the shower, watching TV or reading the newspaper.
  • Master your technique. I recommend flossing after eating and when you brush. It really doesn’t matter if you floss before or after brushing, as long as you do a thorough job. To floss correctly: Bring the string down gently along the side of one tooth, then back up. Do the same on the adjacent tooth, and work your way around the entire mouth. If you have restorative work, like crowns, pull the floss out sideways instead.