Brushing and flossing your teeth are the foundation of good oral health (along with regular visits to your dentist). But for many people, it’s the flossing part of that foundation that leaves them a bit puzzled. Is there a proper way to floss? What’s the most effective approach? Do I really need to floss if I’m brushing twice a day?
To help you become the boss of your floss, we have a set of helpful tips in this week’s blog.
Tip 1 – Floss daily
According to the American Dental Association (and every dentist you ask), you should be flossing daily. That’s because flossing will remove plaque that your toothbrush can’t get rid of from between your teeth and at your gum line. Plaque is the first step on the road to a cavity since it hardens into tartar.
Tip 2 – Anytime is floss time
Patients often ask us when they should floss. After they brush? Before they brush? After a meal? Before bed? We recommend you choose a time once a day when you aren’t too tired and have a couple of minutes and then get in the habit of flossing then.
Tip 3 – What type of floss is best?
There are two main types of floss to choose from – nylon (also called multifilament because it is made of multiple strands) and PTFE floss (monofilament, which is single strand). Nylon floss can tear of shred if you have tight spaces between your teeth. You generally won’t run into the same problem with PTFE floss, but it is more expensive. Talk to your dental hygienist or your dentist for recommendations that would work best for your teeth.
Tip 4 – Proper flossing technique
Here are five simple steps to help you flawlessly floss:
- Starting with about 18 inches of floss, wind most of the floss around each middle finger, leaving an inch or two of floss to work with;
- Holding the floss tautly between your thumbs and index fingers, slide it gently up-and-down between your teeth;
- Gently curve the floss around the base of each tooth, making sure you go beneath the gumline. Never snap or force the floss, as this may cut or bruise delicate gum tissue;
- Use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth; and
- To remove the floss, use the same back-and-forth motion to bring the floss up and away from the teeth.
Be sure that you don’t floss too hard and damage your gums. If it hurts, go easier. If you haven’t flossed regularly, it will probably take a couple of weeks for the slight discomfort to go away. If you have recurring pain, be sure to see your dentist.
Tip 5 – What about using a flosser?
For a fair number of people, using a flosser is easier and more convenient. If you haven’t used one before, here’s a quick guide to success! Hold the flosser handle firmly and point the flossing tip at an angle facing the area you want to floss first (either top teeth or bottom teeth). Guide the floss gently between two teeth and be sure to avoid snapping or popping the floss. Use the same zigzag motion that you would us with standard floss. Bend the floss around each tooth and slide it under the gum line and along each tooth surface.
Sources: MouthHealthy.org, Oral B, Colgate, American Dental Association