All About Flossing Teeth Correctly: A Detailed Guide for Effective Oral Care
29 Dec 2023
Maintaining optimal oral hygiene goes beyond regular brushing; flossing plays an equally vital role. It’s a crucial step in your daily dental care routine that helps reach the spots your toothbrush can’t.
In this guide, we’ll delve into the art of flossing teeth correctly – a practice essential for preventing plaque buildup, reducing the risk of cavities, and ensuring overall oral health.
Benefits of Flossing Your Teeth Daily
Flossing plays a crucial role in preserving your dental health. Here’s how:
Gets Rid of Plaque
Plaque, a sticky combination of bacteria and food particles, constantly forms on teeth. Flossing effectively removes plaque from areas your toothbrush can’t reach, thereby preventing it from hardening into tartar. Tartar contributes to various dental problems, including gum disease and tooth discolouration.
Reduces the Risk of Cavities
Cavities are small holes in the tooth enamel caused by tooth decay. Plaque accumulation increases the risk of decay. Flossing daily helps remove plaque and food particles in between teeth, lowering the likelihood of cavity formation and protecting the enamel.
Helps Prevent Gum Disease
Regular flossing is crucial in preventing gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis. It cleans the spaces between teeth and gums that a toothbrush can’t reach, reducing inflammation and gum disease risk.
For those already experiencing signs of gum issues, exploring professional gum treatment can be an effective step in managing and improving oral health.
Reduces Bad Breath
Food particles trapped between teeth can decay and lead to bad breath. Flossing removes these particles and the associated plaque, helping to keep your breath fresh.
When to Floss Your Teeth
|Deciding when to floss is as important as doing it correctly. Contrary to common practice, flossing before brushing is more effective. This sequence allows flossing to dislodge food particles and plaque between teeth, which can then be brushed away.
Additionally, flossing first helps fluoride toothpaste better reach the spaces between teeth, enhancing its protective benefits. Thus, incorporating flossing into your routine before brushing ensures a more thorough cleaning and optimises oral health.
How to Properly Floss Your Teeth
Now that we’ve explored the significant benefits of flossing, from preventing plaque buildup to reducing the risk of gum disease, it’s crucial to put this knowledge into practice. Effective flossing techniques are key to reaping these oral health advantages.
Here’s how to floss correctly to ensure you’re fully protecting your teeth and gums:
- Step 1: Take 45cm to 60cm of dental floss and keep a length of 3 to 5cm of floss tight between your fingers.
- Step 2: Guide the floss using index fingers into the lower teeth gaps.
- Step 3: Move the floss in a zigzag motion between teeth, avoiding snapping it. Curve it around each tooth, sliding it up and down against the tooth surface and under your gumline. Use a clean section of floss for every tooth.
- Step 4: Be gentle near the gums to avoid scratching or bruising them.
- Step 5: Wrap the floss around the tooth to form a ‘C’ shape and gently pull it from the gum line to the top of the tooth.
- Step 6: As you move to a new tooth, unroll fresh floss from one hand while rolling used floss onto the other hand’s finger. Use your thumb to guide the floss.
- Step 7: Ensure you also floss the backside of each tooth for complete cleaning.
How to Floss Your Teeth with Braces
Flossing when you have braces can be challenging and time-consuming, but it’s essential for dental health. Here’s how to do it effectively:
- Step 1: Cut a piece of floss about 45 to 60 cm long.
- Step 2: Position yourself in front of a mirror, and gently thread the floss between the main wire and your teeth.
- Step 3: Wrap the ends of the floss around your index fingers, keeping it taut for better control.
- Step 4: Press the floss gently between two teeth, sliding it up and down along their sides. For upper teeth, use an upside-down U shape, gliding the floss to the gumline and back down.
- Step 5: Carefully remove the floss and gently unthread it from behind the wire, avoiding any force that might dislodge the wire or bracket.
- Step 6: Continue repeating the same method.
Additionally, dentists often recommend using an interdental brush alongside flossing for braces patients. Interdental brushes can effectively clean around brackets and between wires, where regular toothbrushes might not reach.
Tips to Properly Floss Without Harming Your Gums
To ensure your flossing routine is both effective and gentle on your gums, consider these essential tips:
Avoid Applying Pressure on Your Gums
Be gentle when flossing near the gum line. Flossing aims to remove plaque from the tooth surfaces, especially near the gums. When flossing lower teeth, gently guide plaque upwards, and for upper teeth, direct it downwards.
It’s crucial not to apply pressure on the gums with the floss, as this can lead to bleeding or pain, especially if the gums are not in a healthy state. Continuous pressure can cause long-term damage, such as furrows or clefts in the gum tissue. The key is to focus on plaque removal without impacting the gum line.
Floss Gently and Slowly
Use a smooth, slow motion to glide the floss between your teeth. It’s important to avoid rushing through the process as if it’s a race. Flossing too quickly can compromise your technique, leading to possible irritation or scraping of the gums.
The goal is thoroughness, not speed, to ensure effective cleaning without harming your gums.
Avoid Flossing Too Frequently
While regular flossing is important, overdoing it can irritate and damage your gums. It’s advisable to stick to flossing once a day.
Types of Dental Floss
People choose different types of dental floss based on their unique dental needs and preferences. For instance, those with tightly spaced teeth might prefer thinner, waxed floss that slides easily between teeth.
On the other hand, individuals with braces or larger gaps between their teeth might opt for dental tape or super floss, which are designed to clean effectively around dental appliances and in wider spaces.
Here’s a look at the different types:
This thin nylon floss, available in various flavours and with waxed or unwaxed options, is suitable for teeth that are close together. The wax coating eases the floss in between tightly spaced teeth.
Wider and flatter than standard floss, dental tape is easier to manoeuvre around braces and effective for cleaning larger gaps between teeth.
Ideal for those with braces or dental bridges, super floss has a stiff end for cleaning under appliances, a spongy part for cleaning around them, and regular floss for removing plaque near the gumline.
*Image taken from https://growingsmiles.co.uk/shop/superfloss-by-oral-b/
Disposable Floss Picks
Disposable floss picks are a user-friendly alternative to traditional floss. They consist of a small piece of floss strung between two prongs on a handle, which offers a better grip and control. This design makes them particularly useful for cleaning hard-to-reach areas, such as the back teeth.
Their ease of use and portability make them a popular choice for people who may struggle with the dexterity required for standard flossing or for those seeking a quick and convenient option for maintaining oral hygiene on the go.
Alternative Flossing Tools
In addition to conventional flosses, other tools can enhance your flossing routine:
This device uses a stream of water at varying pressures to remove plaque and food particles from between teeth and around gums. It’s especially effective for people with braces, as it can clean around brackets and wires without the risk of dislodging them.
These small brushes are designed to clean your teeth. They are particularly helpful for cleaning larger gaps and can be more effective than floss in certain situations, such as around bridges or for those with limited dexterity.
Flossing and Professional Dental Care: A Complete Oral Health Strategy
Integrating daily flossing with regular professional dental care, such as scaling and polishing, forms a comprehensive oral health strategy. Scaling and polishing by dental professionals enhance the benefits of flossing by removing hard-to-reach tartar and plaque, contributing to overall gum health and tooth cleanliness. It’s generally recommended to undergo these procedures every six months for optimal dental health.
Besides our dentists, our skilled oral hygienists also provide these services at i.Dental. Choosing oral hygienists for scaling and polishing can be more affordable and focuses on preventive dental care, offering dedicated services to maintain oral hygiene effectively.
Frequently Asked Questions About Flossing Teeth
Dentists can often tell if you’re not flossing regularly by examining your teeth and gums. They may also inquire about your oral care habits to assess your flossing frequency.
Flossing after meals isn’t mandatory but can be beneficial, especially if you feel food particles stuck between your teeth. However, for daily routine, it’s advised to floss before brushing to remove debris and allow the fluoride from toothpaste to reach between teeth.
Correct flossing involves a gentle up-and-down motion along each tooth’s sides. The goal is to clean areas missed by a toothbrush, avoiding harsh back-and-forth motions that could irritate the gums.