Flossing plays an important role in daily oral hygiene for a number of reasons. Careful flossing reaches the areas between teeth to remove debris, plaque, and bacteria that lodge there. The thin nylon filament of which floss is made is ideal for the hard-to-clean spots that the toothbrush bristles cannot reach.
Proper flossing means wrapping the filament around each tooth and working it in an up-and-down motion as it hugs the tooth. This action removes not only tiny bits of food that the toothbrush cannot, it also tackles bacteria that congregate there, harden, and becomes crusty calculus or the tartar build up. When these bacteria aren't removed and plaque forms, it can cause the gums to become inflamed and bleed, resulting in gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. Untreated, gum disease can lead to damage to the supporting bone and eventually to tooth loss. Prevention of gum disease isn't the only reason to make flossing part of your daily oral-hygiene routine. Bacteria that hide between teeth can cause interproximal decay, which can affect more than one tooth at a time.
In addition to helping prevent gum disease and cavities, flossing removes bacteria and leftover bits of food that can cause bad breath. Diabetics and those afflicted with heart disease have special reasons to floss. Regularly removing bacteria by flossing can reduce the risk of endocarditis -- which can cause the heart to become inflamed. diabetics, because they heal more slowly, should be sure to floss scrupulously.