How to Floss Properly: Step-by-Step Guide to Flossing Teeth
Brushing your teeth isn’t enough to maintain great dental health – if you want to keep your pearly whites and avoid gum diseases like gingivitis, you also have to know how to floss properly. Fortunately, learning how to floss thoroughly and regularly isn’t too difficult, especially if you get into the habit of flossing every time you brush your teeth.
Let’s break down the best step-by-step process for flossing teeth so you get a seal of approval from your dentist at your next visit.
How Do You Floss Correctly?
While flossing at all can help ensure top-tier dental hygiene, you need to know how to floss correctly if you want to see the best benefits. If you’ve forgotten since your dentist last showed you how to floss, no worries – here’s a brief tutorial to break it down for you.
Break off 18 to 24 Inches of Floss
First, take your floss and break off between 18 and 24 inches. Yes, you heard that right. You need this much floss so that you apply fresh floss in between each of your teeth. Using the same floss section over and over again for multiple teeth will just spread plaque and germs around.
Fortunately, floss is incredibly affordable, so you shouldn’t need to worry about running out so long as you pick up a few packs at a time.
Wind the Floss Around Your Middle Fingers
You’ll get the best leverage for your floss if you wrap it around your middle fingers. Wind the floss a few times for adequate tightness – there should be a taut section stretched between your middle fingers when you’re done.
Hold the Floss Taut with Your Index Fingers and Thumbs
Next, grip your floss’s ends with your index fingers and thumbs.
Glide the Floss In Between Two Teeth
Once you’ve prepared your floss string, glide it in between two of your teeth. It’s best to start at the back molar of one side of your teeth (either the top left or bottom left, for example), then progress from tooth to tooth in a linear fashion. This way, you won’t forget any teeth by accident.
Move the Floss Up and Down Gently Against the Side of Each Tooth
As you floss in between your teeth, gently wiggle the floss up and down against each side of both teeth. If you pick up high-quality floss, plaque should scrape free relatively easily, but you should still move your floss up and down a few times just to get rid of as much germs as possible.
Curve the Floss at the Base of Your Tooth
You’re not quite done after cleaning the sides of your teeth. You’ll also need to dip the floss down to the base of your teeth. There are small pockets of germs and plaque that collect at the bases of your teeth over time. Floss can help get rid of these contaminants.
If it hurts a little, don’t worry; flossing will become more comfortable as your gums become accustomed to the routine. The same is true if your gums bleed slightly.
Then repeat the wiggling and curving technique for each pair of teeth in your mouth. If you floss thoroughly, the entire routine should take about a minute. Combined with brushing your teeth, a thorough and well-rounded dental hygiene routine should only take a few minutes out of your day!
Should I Glide the Floss Into My Gums?
If you glide the floss into your gums or you pull on it tightly, you can accidentally bruise or scratch your gums instead. Floss may not be particularly tough, but when you hold it taut between your fingers you can exert significant pressure on the gums anyway.
Curving the floss helps the floss string to enter the plaque-filled space between your teeth and gums without harming the gumline.
How Do I Floss with Braces?
Flossing with braces might seem impossible, but the technique you should use doesn’t deviate too much from regular flossing.
- You still need a piece of floss measured 18 to 24 inches
- The big difference is that you need to thread your floss strand between the main brace wire and your teeth. Flossing in front of a mirror can be helpful
- Thread the floss underneath the brace wire before securing it
- Wrap the floss around the ends of your index fingers, then gently press your floss between two teeth
- As you slide the floss up and down, remember to curve the floss to avoid damaging your gums
- Once you’re finished flossing one pair of teeth, remove the thread of floss and re-thread it at the next pair
Flossing with braces takes longer than flossing without braces, but it is still a vital part of dental hygiene. In fact, flossing with braces might even be more important as your toothbrush may be less capable of getting rid of plaque and germs with the braces and wires in the way.
Even an electric toothbrush may not be able to get all the food it normally might with unblocked teeth.
Should You Floss Before or After Brushing Your Teeth?
Even though this goes against what many of us were taught as children, there’s some research to suggest that flossing before brushing your teeth can actually be beneficial.
In a nutshell, flossing breaks up some of the plaque that will have hardened between your teeth before you go to clean them. After flossing, this plaque becomes easier to remove for your toothbrush, resulting in better dental hygiene overall.
You should brush and floss your teeth twice per day, once in the morning and once in the evening, preferably after eating your morning and evening meals.
What Are the Types of Dental Floss
Most of us are familiar with common dental floss, but there is actually more than one type of dental floss available.
Dental tape is a broad, flatter variety of floss compared to the standard thread. Like standard floss, you can find dental tape in both waxed and unwaxed versions. Dental tape is mostly used by people who have a lot of space between their teeth.
More surface area means that dental tape produces a little less surface pressure on the gums, so it may be more comfortable if you have a lot of gum line space to clean. However, dental tape is not preferred for people with braces as it is too easy for the tape to get caught in the wires.
Standard floss is the basic flossing tool we’re all familiar with. It comes in both unwaxed and waxed varieties. Unwaxed floss is usually made of nylon and has 35 tiny strands twisted together. Waxed floss is the same, but comes with a light wax coating that makes the thread less likely to break.
Naturally, some floss is better than other floss. Supersmile’s Professional Whitening Floss is a top-tier choice because it can safely whiten your teeth without increasing sensitivity or wearing down enamel. It’ll gently but thoroughly remove plaque and germs from between your teeth, as well as provide long-lasting germicidal protection for fresh breath.
So-called "super floss" is floss made from a yarn-like material. There are stiff sections at either end of the thread that you can use to clean around dental bridges or braces. It’s a specialized flossing tool only used by folks who need help cleaning around those implements.
Floss picks are small plastic tools that have a small piece of floss suspended between two arms. Depending on the type, floss picks can either be disposable or refillable with new floss strands.
Floss picks make flossing easy by providing a single, perfectly measured strip of floss for each pair of teeth in your mouth and don’t require you to hold floss by wrapping it around your fingers.
A water flosser is an advanced flossing tool that sprays concentrated streams of water in between your teeth. These devices can be beneficial for people who have dental work that make traditional flossing tools a little tough to use, such as fixed bridges or intense braces.
Water flossers can work just as well as standard floss, provided you use them as regularly as normal floss.
As you can see, the right floss technique isn’t too hard to maintain as long as you give yourself enough time to thoroughly clean in between your teeth every day. Additionally, there are lots of different flossing tools you can use depending on what dental work you have, the sensitivity of your gums, and your personal preference.
With so many different flossing tools to choose from, there’s no excuse to skip this crucial part of your dental hygiene routine. We’ve got some of the best options for floss, toothbrushes, and other dental tools on our online store – check it out today!
How often should I floss my teeth? | ADA
How to Floss Your Teeth | Mouth Healthy.org
How to Use Dental Floss | Medical.net
How to Floss Properly: Step-by-Step Guide to Flossing Teeth | Healthline