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Two Floss Alternatives for Thread Haters

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There are two types of people in the world: daily flossers, and the rest of us. If you’re one of the latter, chances are you’ve tried to pick up the habit at least twice a year (probably directly after your dental check-ups, when your hygienist guilts you into starting after destroying your gums). But eventually you skip a day, and that day turns into two, and soon enough you’re back in the dentist chair, gums throbbing, swearing to your D.D.S. that you do floss daily—or, almost. (And tooth pain is just one of these 11 Things Your Mouth Can Tell You About Your Health).

Besides the fact that we don't floss, 27 percent of us straight-up lie to our dentists about it, according to a new survey by the American Academy of Periodontology. (As if our bloody gums don't give us away.)

But it’s not just our dignity that suffers from our dishonesty. Flossing is critical for removing all the plaque and bacteria from below your gum line. When you don’t do it, you’re seriously increasing your chances of developing bad breath, cavities, inflammation and, eventually, gum disease. And that affects way more than your mouth. The damaging bacteria in your mouth can get into your bloodstream and travel to other parts of your body, like your heart, your brain, even your joints, leading to problems like cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and joint failure. (Is Happy Hour Hurting Your Teeth?

Scary stuff. But still, when a slimy, spitty string of floss is cutting off circulation to your fingers as you try to shove your hands far enough into your mouth to reach your molars, it’s easy to forget all that. The good news: There are other options.

The Listerine Ultraclean Access Flosser ($3, drugstore.com), for example, is a long wand with disposable floss heads. (Full disclosure: This handy stick is what finally converted yours truly to a daily flosser.) No more numb, floss-strangled fingertips, no more sticking your hands in your mouth—totally worth needing to buy refills often. Another alternative is the Philips Sonicare AirFloss ($80, target.com), which shoots air and micro-droplets or water or toothbrush between your teeth to power away plaque. What won’t replace floss is regular old mouthwash or chewing gum—though the latter comes pretty close, research in PLOS One shows. (Check out How to Whiten Teeth Naturally with Food.) 

A final, slightly radical, idea: Come clean to your dentist. Tell her you hate flossing, and tell her why. She might be able to offer a perfect solution you didn’t know about. Your gums—and the rest of you—will thank you.

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