When we think of oral hygiene measures, flossing is the last thing to cross our minds. We are taught about traditional oral hygiene methods, but unconventional methods like flossing remain mostly ignored. That’s why I thought of putting this guide and telling you how to floss your teeth properly so that they stay healthy always.

Flossing may seem boring but is fun when done correctly with the right tools. Flossing looks like a time consuming task but when done in the correct manner, it hardly takes a few minutes.

So how about making flossing interesting? Stick till the end of this article to understand the basics of flossing and start doing it properly right away.

Did you know: Flossing regularly helps prevent heart diseases. Yes, you heard that correct. Flossing not only cleans your mouth but helps eradicate the harmful bacteria that are responsible for increasing the chance of heart diseases. (Source: PHPA, Harvard Health)

Why Should You Floss?

Flossing is more like interdental cleaning, which helps in getting rid of interproximal dental plaque (one that accumulates between your teeth) and also helps in removing debris, such as food particles. There are many tools for interdental cleaning but flossing is the gold standard method and even the easiest one.

Most people think that brushing two times is enough for maintaining good oral hygiene. However, in spite of brushing twice a day effectively, you may encounter recurrent dental problems. This happens because tooth brushing alone does not kill all the germs in the mouth. There are many such areas in the mouth where even the best toothbrush can fail to reach.

How to Floss Your Teeth Properly?

Not just flossing but flossing correctly is important. Only after mastering the correct techniques, you can effectively remove the excess plaque buildup between your teeth and improve your oral health.

Flossing should be performed in such a way that it covers all the surfaces of the tooth, including the back tooth and all the areas of the mouth that are hard to reach.

How to Floss Your Teeth infographic

So learn how to floss your teeth to floss properly with me to maintain good oral hygiene.

1. Conventional flossing

Conventional flossing makes use of floss threads, which are held by hands and given a particular motion. As you are going to hold the floss in between your fingers and put it in your mouth, make sure your hands are clean. This method can be used for waxed, unwaxed, or dental tape.

The American hygienists association has given 4 easy steps which make flossing easier than before.

  • Wind: Wind about 18-24 inches of dental floss around your middle or your index finger of your hand (any hand that you prefer), and take a little amount of it onto your index or middle finger of the other hand. Make sure to leave at least 1-inch of the dental floss hanging to work while flossing.
  • Guide: Keep at least 1-2 inch length of dental floss between the fingers. Use your index finger to guide the dental floss in between the contacts of the lower teeth.
  • Glide: Glide the floss gently, between your teeth using the “zig-zag” motion. Just be careful to not let the floss pop or snap between your teeth. Curve the floss gently, ensuring that you reach below the gumline. Next, contour the floss around the tooth’s side, forming a C-shape with the floss, as you wrap it around your tooth.
  • Slide: Finally, slide the floss up & down, rubbing against your tooth’s surface and underneath your gum line. Don’t forget to clean the back of your teeth. As you move from one tooth to the other, make sure to use clean sections of floss.

2. Using a flosser

  • This flossing technique is similar to a hand-held flosser. Hold the flosser handle firmly and point the flossing tip at an angle facing the area you want to floss first. 
  • Guide the dental floss between two teeth gently and ensure to avoid popping or snapping the floss. Make use of the same zig-zag pattern. 
  • Bend your floss around every tooth and nicely slide it beneath the gumline as well as along every tooth surface.

3. Using an electric or water flosser

  • When it comes to electric flossers, the technique is pretty much the same. 
  • Guide the dental floss between two teeth gently and ensure to avoid popping or snapping the floss. Make use of the same zig-zag pattern. 
  • A few flossers have nice, angled handles, which make it simple for you to reach even the trickiest spots, particularly at the back of the tooth.

4. Flossing around dental work

  • Especially with a dental bridge or crown, using a nylon floss threader will help you thread the flossing tape easily through the false tooth and the teeth on either side of it.
  • Using brush picks with tiny soft brushes, which fit in between the teeth are an ideal option to stop plaque from forming around the dental bridge.
  • Another option is to use a water flosser or a water pick which can more easily clean those hard-to-reach spots in between your teeth and your dental bridge.
  • Special care should be taken while flossing around dental implants. You should never push the floss down into the gum pocket. If you fear that you lack the ability to floss around the prosthesis without disturbing the peri-implant seal, it is best simply not to floss around the implant at all. However, if done with caution use of Superfloss to clean around implants is advisable.

5 Best Benefits of Flossing Your Teeth

So here are the perfect reasons for you to start flossing and taking care of your pearly whites:

1. Protects your teeth

The areas which are not cleaned by brushing, like the interdental areas or the gumline, are effectively cleaned by flossing. This helps in prevention of cavities in between the two surfaces of the teeth.

2. Helps your toothpaste to work better

Flossing before brushing your teeth gives a better chance for the toothpaste to work to its full potential. When you remove food particles and buildup with flossing, there is more area for brushing to cover. It works better when the teeth are fully clean especially if your toothpaste has fluoride.

3. Regulates your general health

The bacteria that accumulate in the mouth due to improper oral hygiene can lead to many systemic diseases compromising your general health. Hence, flossing is of utmost importance when it comes to keeping bacteria at bay.

4. Keeps the mouth super clean

Brushing helps improve your oral health but it isn’t that effective on the areas that are hard to reach. Such areas can only be cleaned by flossing. Flossing makes sure your mouth is 100% clean.

5. Prevents gum diseases

Flossing removes the plaque buildup from the intricate anatomies of the gumline hereby making your gums free from gingivitis. It keeps your gums healthy and strong.

When Should You Floss?

Now that you have learnt how to floss your teeth properly, it is imperative to know about the right time to floss too so that you can achieve excellent results.

We all are well known about the timings and frequencies of brushing, but when it comes to flossing we are unknown to many things.

Apparently, The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests flossing your teeth when it fits your time perfectly. Many people are comfortable flossing early in the morning whereas others prefer flossing before bedtime. The most important thing is to floss at least once and brush twice everyday.

Which Should You Do First: Brush or Floss?

Undoubtedly, both brushing and flossing are important activities but to achieve optimum oral health, a proper sequence should be followed to control the growth of bacteria in our mouth.

  • A 2018 study recommended it is better to floss first and then brush as all the debris is loosened first by flossing and eventually cleaned by brushing later. After flossing, brushing with fluoride toothpaste helps in increasing the fluoride ion concentration in the hard-to-reach areas.
  • If you choose to brush first and then floss, chances are that the debris may remain in your mouth until the next time you brush.
  • Hence, it’s preferable to floss first and then continue with the routine brushing.

7 Types of Dental Floss

The most common query of many patients is what type of floss should be preferred. With a wide variety of products in the markets, choosing the right one is pretty confusing.

the right way to floss your teeth

Foyle said:

“The type of floss you use is more a matter of preference, but the most important thing is choosing the floss you like and using it everyday.”

So to avoid confusion, here’s the list comprising of types of dental floss for you to choose the one that’s suitable to you according to your needs:

1. Waxed dental floss

Waxed dental floss is made of standard nylon with a light wax coating. The wax coating makes it easier for the floss to slide between teeth.

2. Unwaxed dental floss

These are made of sleek/thin nylon strands that can fit into extremely tight spaces. Their non-slip grip feature makes them easy to hold and use. These might be an excellent option if your teeth are close together.

3. Dental Tape

When compared to regular floss, dental tapes are flatter and thicker. They come in both waxed & unwaxed forms. Since the floss here is thick, they make an ideal option, especially if you have larger gaps in between the teeth.

4. Super Floss

It is a pre-threaded flosser, which comes in neat pre-cut segments. Interestingly, these have stiff ends that help thread it via tight areas. These are an ideal option if you have braces, implants, or bridges.

5. Electric Flosser

Electric flosser vibrates between the teeth in an oscillating motion. This particular flosser makes use of sturdy nylon which very effectively removes plaque. A great option for people having difficulty in handling conventional floss.

6. Natural & Biodegradable Floss

This is an eco-friendly option for all the environmentalists out there. mostly made out of silk or other biodegradable material which is easily degradable in nature.

7. Water Flosser

It’s a cleaning device that shoots a thin stream of water between your teeth or at the gum line. This product can remove food particles and plaque with ease.

6 Tips to Keep in Mind While Flossing

We have learnt about the importance of flossing and also about the techniques for the same. However many times it happens that we tend to skip the basics and end up doing the wrong way.

So here are a few precautionary tips to be followed while flossing in order to avoid getting hurt or doing it the wrong way.

  • Be gentle: Do not be too aggressive or in a hurry to force floss between the teeth. This can traumatize the gums and lead to bleeding. Gently slide the floss between the teeth.
  • Floss everyday: According to the guidelines from the ADA, it is mandatory to floss at least once everyday. Regular use of dental floss is important to maintain optimum oral health.
  • Floss in a correct way: Along with frequency, proper technique of flossing is also important. Flossing in a correct manner will provide you with fruitful results.
  • Leave nothing behind: See to it that while flossing all the threads come out of your mouth and nothing is left behind between the teeth. This can lead to periodontal infection which will ultimately sabotage your oral health.
  • Skip the toothpick: Use floss instead of a toothpick to remove food stuck in between your teeth. Using a toothpick can damage your gums and lead to an infection.
  • Consult your dentist: In case of any difficulty while flossing or to know anything about flossing, you can always consult your dentist regarding the same.

Conclusion

Flossing is an activity ignored by many even though it’s the most important exercise to take care of your teeth as well as gums. Brushing and flossing go hand in hand both being equally necessary for keeping our mouth away from cavities causing germs. Flossing is an interesting approach if done with proper techniques and proper tools.

In this article, I have made an attempt to make flossing look fun and easy. By following proper protocols and sequences you too can floss easily. So don’t be scared to try something new and start flossing right away.

About the Author

Dr. Rutuja Sankhe

Dr. Rutuja Sankhe is a Periodontist & Implantologist. She completed her masters in 2019. She is a Dental Surgeon by profession and is currently working in Mumbai as a consultant. She has an excellent knack for writing and has a tremendous interest in research work.

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