How To Floss Properly: 5 Easy Steps

It is necessary to know how to floss properly as it is good for oral hygiene and the overall health of the mouth. Flossing helps with cleaning up debris stuck in between teeth.

We all know that food particles stuck in our teeth can lead to bacteria and plaque buildup in our mouths.1 Therefore knowing how to floss properly is important so that we can avoid damage to our teeth.

how to floss properly
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1. Importance Of Flossing Regularly To Fight Gum Disease

It is a known fact that brushing your teeth twice a day is necessary. We should also avoid huge amounts of sugar to keep our teeth healthy. But is it enough?

The answer is that knowing to floss properly is important to fight the plaque which is a sticky bacteria that sticks to the surface of a tooth. Plaque is the main reason for tooth decay, bad breath, and gum disease like periodontitis.2

Brushing helps a lot to fight the plaque but it is not as effective as flossing as brushing can’t reach areas like the narrow gaps between teeth. Flossing also helps to polish the surface of the tooth.

However before we move further into the article, it is important to acknowledge that flossing can be easily done at home but it is still better to visit a doctor, as they can provide proper medical advice and guidance.

2. Types Of Dental Floss

There are many varieties of dental floss. The type of floss you should use depends on your preference and the space between your teeth. Also whether you have braces or bridges.

how to floss properly
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2.1. Dental Tape

This type of floss is broader and flat like a ribbon. It can be used when you have braces, gaps, or large spaces between teeth and is good for your dental hygiene.

2.2. Standard Floss

This type of floss is thin and made of nylon which can be easily wrapped around your fingers. It can easily fit between teeth and comes in flavoured or unflavoured varieties. There are wax varieties of floss available in the market too. If your teeth are close together or have very small gaps in between, then dental floss with wax coating can make it easier to get between your teeth.

2.3. Super Floss

This type of floss can easily work with braces, bridges, and gaps. It generally has three components: a stiffened end for flossing under the appliances, spongy floss to clean around your appliances, and regular floss to clean plaque around your gum line.3

3. Other Tools For Easier Flossing

Apart from dental tape, wax floss, and threads, other tools can help with flossing too.

You can use an electric flosser or a water flosser which uses water pressure to remove plaque and debris from the gap in between your teeth. It is also a great device if you have braces as it can clean between brackets and wires also.

Best flosser & flossing tools

The other option is to use disposable floss picks. It will help you to floss better and remove plaque from the back of your teeth which is generally hard to reach.

4. Right Age To Start Tooth Flossing

It is recommended to start flossing teeth as soon as the permanent dentition replaces the milk teeth.

4Children can start flossing their teeth as soon as they reach the age of 12. However, it is suggested that you take advice from a dental practitioner to understand how to floss your teeth properly. Children can use an interproximal dental brush as an alternative to dental floss.

Many factors play a role in promoting flossing habits in children. A supportive family environment is crucial in encouraging children to floss their teeth. Parents must take the initiative of teaching their children how to floss properly.

Flossing is recommended for all age groups and it is a fact that flossing if done daily can prevent many oral diseases like gingivitis 5and periodontitis.

5. How To Floss Properly Step By Step Guide

To get the best results you need to know how to floss properly and the use of proper flossing technique with the right use of fingers.

how to floss properly
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It is better to floss at least once a day. The guide below shall help you learn about the proper flossing technique which is best for your dental health.

5.1. Step 1

At first, you need to break off about 18 to 24 inches of dental floss. Then you need to hold the floss correctly and wrap up a maximum of the floss around the middle fingers of both hands. You must keep in mind that you only have to leave one to two inches of floss for your teeth.

5.2. Step 2

Up next you need to hold the floss tight with your thumbs and index fingers or middle finger.

5.3. Step 3

Place the dental floss properly in between two teeth. Slowly use back and forth motion to glide the floss up and down and rub it against both sides of each tooth. Avoid gliding the floss into your gums that would scratch them. Glide back down before the floss reaches the top.

5.4. Step 4

When you reach the gums with your floss the floors into a C shape. This helps the floors to reach the gaps between your gums and your teeth.

5.5. Step 5

Repeat the same steps as you go from tooth to tooth. Remember to use a new clean section of floss with each new tooth.

6. How To Floss Properly With Braces

Flossing with braces can be a little hard and tricky. Also, it is more time-consuming to floss with braces than floss without them. You need to know how to floss properly with braces to avoid damaging your braces and your dental health in the process.

With the method mentioned below, it’s better to choose waxed floss over unwaxed floss as unwaxed ones are more likely to tear and get stuck.

how to floss properly
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1. First you need to break off about 18 inches of floss or 24 inches of waxed dental floss.

2. Make sure you’re standing in front of the mirror so that you know that the floss is going where you need it to go.

3. Proceed by gliding the floss between your teeth and the main wire. Make sure the loose ends of the floss are twisted around your index fingers and held with the thumbs of the opposite hand so that it is easier for you to move the floss around.

4. Gently press the floss between the two teeth and then move the floss up and down along the sides of both teeth.

5. While working on the top part of your teeth try making an upside-down U with the floss. Once you reach the gum line of one tooth then glide the floss down on the side of the other two forming a U shape.

6. You must carefully unthread the floss from behind the wire. Do the process gently and carefully without popping the floss or else you might dislodge a wire.

7. Now take a new piece of waxed floss and move on to the next teeth. Continue with the same technique until you have flossed between all your teeth.

Another option that works well while flossing with braces is Waterpik, which is a type of water flosser, or a floss threader which is a small tool that helps you floss easily.

7. When Should You Floss?

Knowing the perfect time for flossing can help improve your oral health and reduce cavities. Under general recommendation flossing your teeth should be done before using a toothbrush on your teeth.

It is a generally known fact that flossing helps remove the plaque stuck in between the teeth. If you floss after brushing the particles that are removed due to flossing will remain in your mouth until the next time you brush.

A study from 2018 suggested that it is better to floss before brushing your teeth to prevent cavities. This study showed that flossing loosened the bacteria and the food debris between your teeth. If you brush in a gentle rubbing motion after flossing you can remove these particles.

Brushing after flossing also increases fluoride concentration in the interdental plaque. Which would eventually strengthen the tooth enamel reduce the risk of tooth decay and improve oral health.

According to the suggestions of the American Dental Association (ADA), there is no best time to floss your teeth. You can floss your teeth at the time you are comfortable with. Some people may prefer to floss as their morning ritual to start the day with a clean mouth while some may want to end their day with a flossed mouth.

Although there is no recommendation on how many times a day you should floss your teeth, it is generally suggested that one might need to floss right after your meals to clean the food that is stuck between your teeth and for excellent oral health.

8. In The End

If you know how to floss properly then you can avoid most gum diseases and dental problems. Also, you will have good oral health.

It can help you maintain good oral hygiene but it is still necessary to visit the dentist for dental cleaning services and a proper check-up once every month.

In the matter of unusual things like red swollen gums, sensitivity to hot and cold, loose teeth, persistent bad breath, receding gums, tooth pain, and bleeding gums, one must immediately visit a dentist for a diagnosis, proper dental care, and treatment.

9. Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How Do I Know if I’m Flossing Correctly?

Your gums shouldn’t bleed while you’re flossing.

Q2. Is It Better to Floss Before or After Brushing?

Surprisingly, flossing first followed by brushing with a fluoride toothpaste is more effective in removing interdental plaque than brushing first, and flossing second. In addition, flossing before brushing results in greater fluoride retention between teeth.

Q3. Can Dentists Tell if You Don’t Floss?

The dentist can tell when you are brushing and when not. The only way to tell you’re not flossing is if your gums bleed. Although there are less common conditions that affect your gums completely, the main cause is gum disease.

Infographic that guides you to maintain dental health at the workplace
Icy Health
  1. Marsh, Philip D. “Microbiology of dental plaque biofilms and their role in oral health and caries.” Dental Clinics 54.3 (2010): 441-454. ↩︎
  2. Flemmig, Thomas F. “Periodontitis.” Annals of periodontology 4.1 (1999): 32-37. ↩︎
  3. FORM, WHY DOES IT. “DENTAL PLAQUE: BACTERIAL SHENANIGANS ABOVE AND BELOW THE GUMLINE.” ↩︎
  4. Kiger, Robert D., Karin Nylund, and Ralph P. Feller. “A comparison of proximal plaque removal using floss and interdental brushes.” Journal of Clinical Periodontology 18.9 (1991): 681-684. ↩︎
  5. Page, Roy C. “Gingivitis.” Journal of Clinical Periodontology 13.5 (1986): 345-355. ↩︎

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Sanmohita Pal

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