Home Oral Care – Flossing
How Do I Floss Properly?
You should be sure to floss once a day in order to prevent cavities in places where your toothbrush can’t reach and to ward off gum disease.
To floss properly:
- Use a piece of floss that’s about 18″ long. Wind most of the floss around one of your middle fingers and the remaining floss around the same finger on the opposite hand.
- When flossing, you will be gradually unwinding clean floss from the one finger, while wrapping the dirty floss around the finger of the other hand.
- Tightly hold the floss between your forefingers and thumbs.
- Use a gentle rubbing motion to guide the floss between your teeth. Be sure not to use too much force or to snap the floss into your gums.
- When the floss reaches the gumline, wrap it into a “C” shape around one tooth and slide it gently into the space between the gum and tooth.
- While holding the floss tightly against the side of the tooth, move the floss away from your gums with an up-and-down motion.
- Complete this process until you have rubbed the floss along the side of each of your teeth.
- Don’t forget to floss the back of your last molar!
The American Dental Association has a video to help show you this process.
Why Is It Important to Floss?
Most people will brush their teeth, but many are reluctant to floss as instructed. Some feel that brushing alone is sufficient, while others were influenced by a 2016 news article citing the lack of studies done on the effectiveness of flossing. Others are concerned when flossing causes discomfort or makes their gums bleed.
The truth of the matter is that toothbrushes are incapable of reaching all surfaces of the tooth. There are spaces between teeth where tiny food particles and bacteria can cause plaque formation. While mouthwash can reach these areas and kill the bacteria, it’s not capable of removing the plaque. This plaque will eventually become tartar, a hard substance that can only be removed by a dentist.
Plaque in areas between teeth can result in cavities that are difficult to spot, and beneath the gumline, it can cause irritation and eventually lead to gingivitis and gum disease. This is typically the real reason why gums bleed when flossing. Flossing helps keep these areas clean and allows the gums to heal and return to normal.
A study performed at Mashhad University of Medical Sciences found that flossing increases the effectiveness of brushing, allowing higher concentrations of fluoride to remain in the mouth for longer periods of time. While the study found evidence leading us to believe that flossing before brushing may be more effective, the most important thing is that we DO floss!