Happy woman with healthy teeth flossing.

Flossing is something that everyone knows they are supposed to do. But are you doing it routinely, and are you doing it right? Many people rush through flossing, don’t use proper technique, or simply skip it all together most of the time.

Of course, your dentist is happy to show you hands-on the correct way to floss, but sometimes during your appointment, you simply forget to ask. That’s why we put together this flossing guide. We hope this quick read boosts your oral care routine and helps you maintain a healthy smile.

Why Floss

Up to 30% of your teeth’s surface area doesn’t get cleaned if all you do is brush. Neglecting this much area leaves those spaces prone to decay and gum disease.

When debris from food, particularly sugar and starchy foods, comes in contact with the tooth surface and sticks around for a while, naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth feed on those sugars. The bacteria produce acids that can wear away at the protective surface layer of the teeth (known as enamel). Worn-away enamel leaves teeth susceptible to bacteria, resulting in decay and cavities.

When it comes to the shape and relative position of your teeth, food debris easily becomes stuck between teeth. And while brushing does a great job of cleaning the surfaces of teeth that are easy to reach, your toothbrush cannot reach into the tight spaces between teeth, especially at the gum line. Proper flossing technique, however, can remove those particles and hopefully prevent the process resulting in tooth decay.

What’s the Best Way to Floss?

While most of us know how important it is to floss, we can sometimes get hung up on just how to do it correctly. Here are some guidelines to follow so you can get the most from your flossing routine.

What Type of Floss to Choose

What type you choose can mostly be based on personal preference. Waxed floss helps the string glide between teeth, so if your teeth are closer together, this can be a good choice. Dental tape is thicker, and many people with large gaps like this. Picks are a great option for people with difficulty holding on to floss. And water flossers are also an option for those with reduced mobility or people with braces.

How Often to Floss

We should brush our teeth twice per day for 2 minutes, but do you need to floss every time you brush? Probably not. Once per day is considered sufficient. So don’t feel pressured to floss every time you brush if you find that to be burdensome.

When to Floss

The next question is whether you should floss in the morning or at night. The most important thing is to choose a time you will actually do it and not rush through. So pick the most convenient time for you.

While many people may think it makes sense to floss after brushing, that is not necessarily the case. Studies show that flossing before brushing is more effective, as it dislodges stuck debris, and then brushing helps to remove it entirely.

Best Flossing Technique

If using string or tape, use a healthy amount: about 18 inches. Floss between every tooth, including those in the back. Hold the floss with your thumb and index fingers and slide it back and forth up and down the side of the tooth in a “C” shape. Avoid being overly rough so as to not irritate gums.

Get Into a Flossing Routine

The best way to get into a flossing routine is to just start! Once you do it every day for a while, it will become a habit. If you miss a day, just start again the next day. Of course, you already have a habit of brushing, so tying flossing to that existing habit will help. Put your floss right by your toothbrush, so you see it when you reach for your brush.

If you want more information about making flossing a habit or could use a lesson on the perfect flossing technique, talk to us at your next appointment!