How to Floss
Keep your teeth free from harmful plaque by flossing every day
Most people don’t really find flossing a particularly enjoyable experience. That’s understandable. But it is essential for good dental health, and when done correctly only takes a few minutes to complete.
It’s incredibly important to floss daily, as plaque and food debris gets caught in between the contact areas of your teeth and gums, and it is simply impossible to reach these areas effectively with your toothbrush. These become prone to tooth decay, gum disease often develops in the sections of gum tween your teeth if you don’t floss.
The contact areas between your teeth count for about one third of all your tooth surfaces
The contact areas between your teeth count for about one third of all your tooth surfaces. When you fail to floss, the plaque on your teeth hardens into calculus or tartar. This can happen very quickly, within a day or two. Hardened calculus can only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist. Left alone, it can result in serious tooth decay and gum disease or periodontal disease. When you’re in the habit of daily flossing you will find it increasingly easier to do. Before you know it, missing a day will feel wrong.
Establish a system
In order to get into a flossing habit, establish a system that you will stick with every time. We recommend that you start at the mid-line of your teeth. Work each upper tooth on the right all the way to the back upper molar (lots of people forget the molars!). Then start again from the middle and go left this time, again all the way to the back. Then start at the middle of your lower teeth and go all the way back on one side. Finally, do the same on the other side. This regimented approach ensures that you don’t miss any teeth, and becomes a valuable habit that keeps you from having to think about which teeth you may have already done and which ones you haven’t.
Proper flossing technique
Start by breaking off about 18 inches to two feet of floss. Wrap the ends around your middle and index fingers, leaving about two inches between each hand. Gently slide the floss in between your teeth, right down to the base of the tooth and just underneath the gum. Wrap the floss around the tooth and gently slide it up or down (up for lower teeth and down for upper teeth) so it removes the maximum amount plaque and debris. You may need to repeat this step before winding the floss on to a fresh section and moving on to the next tooth.
You need to floss between every single tooth. Don’t skip the back molars.
If you haven’t flossed in a while, you might find that your gums bleed. Bleeding will generally stop after your gums recover from the bacteria, usually within two weeks after starting a regular flossing regimen. It’s important to keep flossing despite the bleeding, because it will diminish. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, contact us for advice because it could mean that you have gum disease which requires additional treatment.
Choosing your floss
There are a lot of different types of dental floss on the market. Some are designed especially for sensitive gums. There are waxed and non-waxed flosses. This simply describes whether they are specially coated to slide between your teeth more easily. There are even different widths of floss. If your teeth are tightly packed together you may find it more effective to use a wide floss. Some floss containers are even pre-threaded so they are easier to use.
Alternatives to dental floss
There are other ways of cleaning in between each tooth. You can buy interdental brushes, small brushes that come in a variety of widths and slide in between each tooth to clean the contact areas. Some of these are angled, making it easier to reach the teeth at the far back. Also available are slim rubber picks that work the same way. A variety of floss threaders are available that you may prefer over holding the floss between your fingers.
If you have questions about how to floss or what type of floss to buy, just ask our friendly staff for help.