Your dentist wants you to floss, even if he or she doesn't say it often enough. It's likely you know this. If you do floss regularly, you're in the minority. People often find it difficult to make time to do what it takes to keep the spaces between teeth clean and their gums stimulated.

Some counseling from your dentist may help. When dentists coach their patients about the risks of periodontal disease and teach them some strategies for staying on top of their dental hygiene, things get better, a new British study finds.

Gum health impacts heart and metabolic health as well.

Nearly 100 people who had moderate periodontal disease took part in the study. All were adult patients at a London General Dental Practice. Participants either received their usual treatment, a personalized report on their periodontal disease risk, or that individualized report and a goal-setting, planning and self-monitoring program that was rooted in psychological theory.

The extra attention — both the warning and the strategies — made a big difference. Compared to those patients who received treatment as usual, The patients in the two groups receiving personalized instruction had significantly reduced dental plaque. The two treatment groups also had fewer inflamed and bleeding gum areas and did a better job cleaning between their teeth.

Gum disease can cost you your teeth. The health of your gums can also affect your gut bacteria. Poor dental hygiene and oral inflammation has also been linked to heart disease.

“Our study shows that by adopting a simple psychological intervention, aided by the use of an online risk assessment tool, we can significantly improve measurable clinical outcomes and reduce initial signs of gum disease in patients seen routinely in General Dental Practice,” lead author, Koula Asimakopoulou, said in a statement.

“Patients are naturally concerned about their risk of periodontal disease; we have found that coupling their concern with a structured discussion of coping strategies and simple behaviour change techniques, may be a useful driving force in improving health outcomes within a routine dental consultation,” the dental practitioner who delivered the intervention, Matthew Nolan, noted.

The paper offers proof of just how useful patient-focused healthcare interventions can be, Mark Ide, President of the British Society for Periodontology, believes. Now the trick is to motivate dentists to take the time to counsel their patients about gum disease.

The study appears in Journal of Periodontology.