Flossing is a crucial part of maintaining oral hygiene. It removes plaque and bacteria that your toothbrush can’t reach, helping to prevent cavities and gum disease. However, it’s essential to know the proper way to floss to reap its benefits, as there are both right and wrong ways to floss.
Dr. Bestandji of Canal Vista Family Dental in Princeton, NJ, shares tips below on how to floss correctly.
How Much Floss to Use
Using the right amount of floss is crucial for effective flossing. A common mistake is using too little, which doesn’t allow for proper cleaning, or too much, which leads to unnecessary waste. It’s best to use around 18 inches of floss each time.
How to Hold Floss Properly
Once you have the right amount of floss, it’s crucial to hold it properly to clean your teeth thoroughly. Wrap one end of the floss around your middle fingers and leave an inch or two between your thumbs and index fingers. This allows you to unwrap the floss on one hand while you wrap it on the other when you need a new, clean section of floss.
Another alternative to this method is to tie either end of your 18” strip of floss together and work your way around the circle as you floss your teeth.
Flossing Around Your Teeth: Step by Step
Flossing your teeth requires a specific step-by-step process to ensure you reach all the surfaces around each tooth. Dr. Bestandji recommends the following:
1. Wrap either end of the floss around your middle finger, then hold it with your thumb and index finger.
2. Slide the floss gently between your teeth.
3. Curve the floss around one tooth, holding it in a C-shape.
4. Gently move the floss up and down to remove plaque and debris. Allow the floss to slip under the edges of your gums each time, but lift it up and over the gums before you move to the next tooth.
5. Repeat the process with each tooth, using a new section of floss each time. Be sure to floss around every tooth, including back teeth or teeth that do not have another tooth next to them.
How to Floss With Braces
If you have braces, flossing becomes a bit trickier. However, it’s even more important to floss regularly, as braces trap food particles and plaque, leading to demineralized white spots or cavities.
To floss with braces, Dr. Bestandji suggests using a floss threader or an orthodontic flosser. A floss threader allows you to loop the floss behind the wires, while the orthodontic floss has a stiffer end to navigate under wires.
Water flossing is also a great alternative.
Do Floss Picks Work?
Floss picks are small, disposable plastic devices that hold a small piece of floss on the end. They are easy to use and come in handy when you’re on the go, so a lot of people keep them in their desk, handbag, or car.
However, we don’t usually recommend using floss picks as your primary flossing tool. They typically don’t reach as well between your back teeth as traditional floss, which can result in ineffective cleaning. But if you have a problem spot that collects food each time you eat, using a disposable floss pick during the day can be extremely useful between your home flossing sessions.
Floss Alternatives: Water Flossers
Water flossers, also called oral irrigators or “Waterpiks” (which is a popular brand,) use a stream of water to clean between your teeth. They are an excellent alternative for people who struggle with traditional flossing or have braces, bridges or dental implants.
Water flossers are also highly effective for cleaning periodontal pockets, which may be too deep to reach with traditional string floss. With a water flosser, you simply aim the stream of water and trace the gumlines, pausing between teeth to clean the tight contacts. Using water flossers may take a little getting used to, but they are highly effective.
Will Floss Pull Out Your Dental Work?
One of the greatest misconceptions about dental floss is that it will pull off dental crowns and veneers. In reality, it’s worse not to floss around your dental work. You see, if you aren’t flossing those areas, new decay can develop around the restoration and cause it to fail.
At our Princeton dentist’s office, all dental crowns are carefully fitted to your specific teeth. When you’re flossing around crowns—or veneers or bridges for that matter—you don’t have to worry about the floss pulling it off. In fact, we highly recommend flossing every tooth, every day, regardless of the type of restoration that’s present.
Why is Flossing So Important?
If you sit back and think about it, brushing only cleans about 3 out of 5 tooth surfaces.
That’s 40% of your tooth surfaces that aren’t getting clean if you’re only brushing. Flossing cleans the spaces that a toothbrush doesn’t reach, which, consequently, are also at a higher risk of developing tooth decay.
When you floss regularly, you’re disrupting the plaque biofilm and removing leftover food debris between your teeth and just under the edges of your gumlines. Doing this every day will significantly lower your risk of developing periodontal (gum) disease in addition to cavities.
What if My Gums Bleed?
If your gums bleed when you floss, it’s probably because you don’t floss very often – and it’s possible this can be a warning sign of developing gingivitis or periodontal disease.
The good news is that scheduling a routine cleaning at Canal Vista Family Dental can help jump-start your smile back on track for great oral health. After that, we recommend flossing every day. It can take up to two weeks of daily flossing for gingivitis-induced bleeding to reverse itself.
If you’re flossing every day and your gums are still bleeding after a couple of weeks, we recommend seeing our Princeton dentist for a gum disease screening. We’ll also show you the best way to floss, so that you can keep your smile healthy for life!