Whenever you visit your dentist, she’s likely to ask you: “Have you been flossing regularly?”

For most people, the answer to that question would be no. In a recent survey, just over 50 percent of people said they floss on a daily basis. Over 18 percent said they never do it at all. But according to the American Dental Association, flossing once a day is just as important as brushing. A combination of flossing and brushing will keep your mouth far healthier than simple brushing alone. If you’re not flossing, your mouth isn’t anywhere near as clean as you might think it is.

A toothbrush can clean all of the exposed outer surfaces of your teeth, but it can’t get the spaces in between since your teeth are so close together. This is the region where tooth decay usually starts. That’s where dental floss comes in handy. It can get to all those stubborn, hard to reach places and remove plaque build up and any bits of food that might be stuck. If these deposits aren’t regularly removed, they can cause bad breath, tooth decay or even gum infections like gingivitis. Some bacteria that can thrive in an unclean, unhealthy mouth can lead to other conditions such as diabetes, respiratory illness, and heart disease.

A regular regiment of brushing twice a day and flossing once a day, along with some antibacterial fluoride mouthwash, can keep plaque and tartarfrom building up in your mouth. Meaning that there’s less of it for your dentist to scrape off during a cleaning visit.

Flossing only takes a few minutes a day and can have major implications on not just your oral health, but your overall health. The next time your dentist asks you if you’ve been flossing regularly, make sure your answer is a resounding ‘Yes!”You’ll learn more during your appointment when the hygienist will provide you as part of your patient dental education.