Using Proper Techniques Are Important if You Want to Floss Effectively
Techniques for Taking Care of Teeth and Gums.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends flossing at least once a day to help remove plaque from the areas between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach. This is important because plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing can eventually harden into calculus or tartar. Flossing also helps prevent gum disease and cavities.
Should You Floss Before or After Brushing?
A spring 2015 MouthHealthy.org poll asked readers if they brush before or after they floss. The results were close: 53% said they brush before, while 47% said after.
So who’s right? Technically, everyone. The most important thing about flossing is to do it. As long as you do a thorough job, it doesn’t matter when. Pick a time of day when you can devote an extra couple of minutes to your dental care. People who are too tired at the end of the day may benefit from flossing first thing in the morning or flossing after lunch. Others might like to go to bed with a clean mouth.
And don’t forget, children need to floss too! You should be flossing your child’s teeth as soon as he or she has two teeth that touch. Because flossing demands more manual dexterity than very young children have, children are not usually able to floss well by themselves until they are age 10 or 11.
What Type of Floss Should I Use?
There are two types of floss from which to choose:
Nylon (or multifilament) floss
PTFE (monofilament) floss
Nylon floss is available waxed and unwaxed, and in a variety of flavors. Because this type of floss is composed of many strands of nylon, it may sometimes tear or shred, especially between teeth with tight contact points. While more expensive, single filament (PTFE) floss slides easily between teeth, even those with tight spaces between teeth, and is virtually shred-resistant. When used properly, both types of floss are excellent at removing plaque and debris.
Talk to your dentist about what types of oral care products will be most effective for you. Look for products that contain the ADA Seal of Acceptance so you know they have been evaluated for safety and effectiveness.
How Do I Floss to Get the Best Results?
Gum disease begins at the gum line and between teeth. Daily flossing is an important part of your oral health care routine to help remove the plaque from these areas where a toothbrush doesn’t completely reach. But to truly reap the benefits, you need to use proper flossing technique.
Four Key Elements for Flawless Flossing
The American Dental Hygienists’ Association explains the key elements of proper flossing technique in four simple steps:
Wind: Wind 18 inches of floss around middle fingers of each hand. Pinch floss between thumbs and index fingers, leaving a one- to two-inch length in between. Use thumbs to direct floss between upper teeth.
Guide: Keep a one- to two-inch length of floss taut between fingers. Use index fingers to guide floss between contacts of the lower teeth.
Glide: Gently guide floss between the teeth by using a zig-zag motion. DO NOT SNAP FLOSS BETWEEN YOUR TEETH. Contour floss around the side of the tooth.
Slide: Slide floss up and down against the tooth surface and under the gum line. Floss each tooth thoroughly with a clean section of floss.
Once you’re finished, throw the floss away. A used piece of floss won’t be as effective and could leave bacteria behind in your mouth.
Keep in mind that flossing should not be painful. If you floss too hard, you could damage the tissue between your teeth. If you’re too gentle, you might not be getting the food out. It’s normal to feel some discomfort when you first start flossing, but don’t give up. With daily brushing and flossing, that discomfort should ease within a week or two. If your pain persists, talk to your dentist.
Using a Flosser
If you use a hand-held flosser, the flossing technique is similar. Hold the flosser handle firmly and point the flossing tip at an angle facing the area you want to floss first (either top teeth or bottom teeth). Guide the floss gently between two teeth, and be sure to avoid snapping or popping the floss. Use the same zigzag motion that you would us with standard floss. Bend the floss around each tooth and slide it under the gum line and along each tooth surface.
Flossing Around Dental Work
If you wear braces or other dental appliances, proper flossing technique is especially important to avoid getting floss caught on wires or brackets. You can use special orthodontic floss which has a stiff end that can be easily threaded under the main wire (also called the arch wire) on your braces. Or you can purchase a floss threader, which is a flexible device with a pick on one end and a loop on the other. To use a floss threader, place an 18-inch piece of the floss of your choice through the loop. Then insert the pointed end of the flosser under the main wire and pull through so the floss is under the main wire. Once you have the floss in place, follow the same principles of proper flossing technique that you would use with standard floss.
You can always ask your dentist or dental hygienist to show you techniques if you are still uncertain.
Sources: MouthHealthy.org, Oral B, Colgate, American Dental Association