Did you know that flossing is equally as important as brushing when it comes to maintaining your oral health? Even with perfect brushing habits, it’s impossible to thoroughly clean the spaces between your teeth where plaque accumulates using a toothbrush. This leaves your teeth susceptible to decay if you don’t floss daily. If you’ve struggled to make flossing a habit, it’s time to give it a try again. Here’s how to get started.
Choosing Your Floss
When we talk about “flossing,” that doesn’t necessarily mean using dental floss. If you find standard dental floss painful or difficult to use, you may prefer to clean between your teeth with dental tape, dental picks, or a water flosser. These tools also make flossing easier for patients with physical disabilities that make conventional floss difficult to use, as well as anyone wearing braces. Ask your dentist for advice on adaptive aids during your next dental cleaning appointment if you need assistance with flossing.
Even with traditional dental floss there are several options available. There was a time when your floss choices were limited to waxed, unwaxed, unflavored, or mint, but these days, there’s an array of flavors, styles, and even colors to choose from. Whichever type of floss you prefer is fine—the important thing is that you use it.
When to Floss
It doesn’t matter when you floss, according to the American Dental Association, as long as you do it at least once a day. While we agree with this, we recommend flossing at night if at all possible because it removes the food and plaque that has accumulated in your mouth throughout the day. In addition, most people have more time at night because they’re not rushing out the door for work or school, so you’re more likely to remember to floss and do a thorough job.
It’s also up to you whether you floss before or after brushing your teeth. Try tying a small piece of floss on the handle of your toothbrush as a visual reminder to floss if you have a tendency to forget.
How to Floss
Most patients believe they know how to floss, but it’s common for people to rush through their oral hygiene routines and not do an adequate job. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get it right:
- Begin with about 18 inches of floss. Wind most of the floss around one finger, then wind the remaining floss on the opposite hand’s same finger.
- Grasp the floss between your forefingers and thumbs.
- Using a gentle back-and-forth motion, slide the floss between your teeth.
- Curl the floss into a C-shape against one tooth and direct it into the gap between the gum and the tooth until it reaches the gum line.
- Hold the floss against the tooth and use up and down movements to gently clean both sides. Repeat with all of your teeth.
If you floss like this at least once a day, you’ll go a long way towards preventing tooth decay and gum disease.