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It's been a really long day, so you decide to skip the dental string, but brushing alone leaves as much as 40% of tooth surfaces untouched.

Flossing between teeth allows you to get into the nooks and crannnies that a toothbrush can't reach, and doing it daily, preferably at night, when plaque causing bacteria really build up, is your frontline defense against gum disease, tooth decay, and bad breath.

If the benefits of good oral health don't convince you to pick up the floss, perhaps an increased risk of heart disease will: research at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health revealed a connection between severe gum disease and an increased risk of atherosclerosis, a condition in which arteries become blocked.

Next time: swear to yourself that you'll floss the following  evening. Nightly flossing is ideal, but its acceptable to do it every other day, as long as it's thorough and you don't have a family history of gum disease, says Godon L. Douglass, DDS, a past president of the American Academy of Periodontology. On days when you're not going to floss, swish water around in your mouth after brushing, Dr. Douglass says this has been shown to reduce bacteria.