Proper flossing is one of the most important parts of maintaining good oral health and hygiene. However, many people do not floss correctly or regularly enough. Flossing thoroughly removes plaque and food particles in places that a toothbrush simply cannot reach – between teeth and just below the gumline.
When plaque builds up in these areas, it can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. The good news is that flossing properly is quick and easy to do with just three simple steps.
Step 1: Use the Right Type and Amount of Floss
The type of floss you use matters. Dental experts recommend using unwaxed floss as it is more effective at removing plaque than waxed varieties. The floss should be about 18 inches long, which allows you to hold the floss tautly between your hands. Take care not to use too much floss as this causes it to shred and become unusable.
Step 2: Properly Wrap Floss Around Fingers
Hold the floss between your index fingers and thumbs and tightly wrap the remaining floss around your middle fingers. This gives you control and lets you use your index fingers and thumbs to guide the floss between teeth. Make sure to hold the floss taut, using about an inch of floss between fingers to clean each tooth space. Slack floss glides over the surfaces between teeth instead of scraping them clean.
Step 3: Floss Up and Down Each Tooth Surface
There are two effective motions for flossing:
- Gently slide the floss up and down against the side of one tooth, following the contours and curves to clean above and below the gumline. Apply light pressure and scrape plaque away.
- After cleaning one tooth surface, form a C-shape against the adjacent tooth and repeat the motion. This cleans the sides of both adjacent teeth before moving to the next tooth space.
As you floss:
- Avoid snapping the floss down into the gums, as this can damage delicate gum tissue.
- Use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth.
- Be sure to floss the backs of your last molars.
- If the floss shreds or frays, unwind a fresh section.
Flossing Tips for Optimal Results
- Floss gently. Don’t “saw” the floss violently between teeth.
- Curve the floss around tooth contours, not just straight up and down. This better cleans hard-to-reach spots.
- Floss teeth you cannot reach with fingers by using a floss threader or loop the floss around the tip of your index finger.
- Rinse your mouth with water when done flossing to wash away dislodged plaque and food debris.
- Floss at least once daily, preferably at night before bed when less food debris accumulates between teeth as you sleep.
- See your dentist regularly for professional cleanings as flossing does not remove hardened tartar below the gumline.
Proper flossing technique is easy to learn but does take practice. Be patient with yourself as you get the motions down. The most important thing is that you floss thoroughly once a day.
In just three simple steps – using the right floss, wrapping it correctly around fingers, and flossing properly up and down tooth surfaces – you can effectively remove plaque that leads to dental problems.
Don’t forget to floss the back teeth too! Routinely flossing properly helps ensure your oral health and hygiene stays in great shape.
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- How to Floss. American Academy of Periodontology. https://www.perio.org/consumer/how-to-floss
- Flossing Your Teeth. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/flossing-your-teeth-its-circle-life