How to Floss Your Teeth
Flossing is an important part of an oral hygiene routine, but research suggests that fewer than half of Americans do so daily. Flossing is simple and only takes an extra couple of minutes per day. Developing a healthy habit of flossing can prevent tooth decay and gum disease, and it may allow you to keep more of your natural teeth as you age. So what is the most effective means of flossing?
- Pull the floss taught and slide it between two teeth.
- Pull against the side of one tooth, creating a “C-shape” and sliding upwards to remove plaque build-up.
- Pull against the opposite tooth edge using the same technique.
- Repeat this process for each tooth until all inner surfaces have been flossed.
- Don’t forget to floss the backs of your molars!
Need some extra tips?
The American Dental Association recommends using a strand of floss approximately 18 inches in length. It is important to only use clean floss as you move between the teeth. One of the easiest ways of doing this is by looping each end of the floss around your fingers and beginning to floss with the area closest to one end. If you have never flossed, be sure to ask your dentist for a quick in-person tutorial at your next check-up.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does floss do?
Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it has a chance to harden into plaque. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces.
Plaque that is not removed can harden into tartar, a hard mineral deposit that forms on teeth and can only be removed through professional cleaning by a dental professional. When this happens, brushing and cleaning between teeth become more difficult, and gum tissue can become swollen or may bleed. This condition is called gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease.
Flossing helps remove debris and interproximal dental plaque, the plaque that collects between two teeth. Dental floss (or dental tape) helps clean these hard-to-reach tooth surfaces and reduces the likelihood of gum disease and tooth decay.
What’s in floss?
Floss was once made from silk fibers twisted to form a long strand. Today, floss is usually made from nylon filaments or plastic monofilaments. It may be treated with flavoring agents, such as mint, to make flossing more pleasant.
What’s the difference between waxed and unwaxed floss?
There is no difference in the effectiveness of waxed or unwaxed floss. It’s not what type of floss you use, but how and when you use it. If you have a preferred type of floss, you may be more likely to use it.
Should I be flossing?
Yes. The ADA recommends that everyone should floss in order to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
Is there anything else I should be doing in addition to flossing?
Yes. In addition to flossing, you should be adopting proper brushing techniques and visiting your pediatric dentists at least twice per year for examinations and professional dental cleanings.