Flossing is an important part of oral healthcare regime to get rid of plaque from the areas where a toothbrush cannot reach. To reap the benefits of flossing, you need to follow the right technique. Else, you might end up hurting your gum. Unfortunately, most people do not know how to floss. Also, even if someone regularly flosses then chances are higher that the method would be wrong. A proper flossing technique involves four steps as wind, guide, glide, and slide.

Also, there are different types of dental floss available in the market. Floss picks, nylon floss, interdental brushes and oral irrigator are a few substitutes to traditional floss.

Let’s see how to floss right way and learn the benefits of flossing.

How to floss?

Flossing every day is a good thing. But are you doing it right? To effectively remove plaque from teeth surfaces you need to follow the correct flossing technique. You will end up injuring your gums if you floss mindlessly.

Key elements of proper flossing technique

Wind

Take 18 inches of floss and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers of one hand and a small amount of floss on the other middle finger of another hand.

Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and index fingers, leaving a 1 to 2 inches length in between.

Guide

Use thumbs to direct floss between upper teeth. Use index fingers to guide floss between contacts of lower teeth. Use a gentle rubbing motion to guide the floss between your teeth.

Glide

Glide the floss between your teeth. Be careful to not let the floss snap or “pop” between teeth. Contour the floss around your teeth by making a C shape.

Slide

Hold the floss tightly against the tooth surface. Slide the floss up and down against the tooth surface and away from the gum. Repeat this method on all teeth.

Do not forget to floss the back side of your back teeth. Be gentle to avoid hurting your gums. when you have finished flossing all your teeth, throw away the floss. A used piece of floss is not effective for another use.

Types of dental floss

There are different types of dental floss. Let’s see different types of floss with the pros and cons –

Unwaxed

This is thin nylon floss which is made up of about 35 strands, twisted together. It easily fits into the tight spaces in between your teeth. But unwaxed floss is prone to breaking or shredding.

Waxed

This is standard floss with a light wax coating. The wax coating prevents shredding but makes it harder to use it in-between teeth with tight contacts. (1)

Dental Tape

Dental tape is broader and flatter than the standard floss. It comes in both waxed and unwaxed versions. People with more space in between their teeth find this option more comfortable to use than the standard floss.

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)

The highlight of this floss is the material of construction. This material can slide easily between teeth and is less likely to break or shred compared to standard floss.

Traditional dental floss substitutes

There are substitutes that you may use instead of a traditional floss and they are floss pick, electric flosser, oral irrigator and interdental brushes.

  • Floss pick – This is a delicate two-pronged instrument with an inch of taut floss between each prong. They are single-use instruments and function like a traditional floss. Some people find using a floss pick easier because it only requires only one hand. Also, there is no need to wrap the floss in between teeth.
  • Electric flosser – They have ergonomic handles, and some have angled heads to back teeth accessible. Electric flosser promotes oral health by gently stimulating the gums. Children or old people with unsteady grip should not use an electric flosser unsupervised.
  • Interdental brushes – They are a short and thin brush that can fit in between your teeth for cleaning both sides of the teeth simultaneously. They are very useful for cleaning around crowns, bridges, permanent retainers and other dental work. It is also useful when there is a space between teeth. (2)
  • Oral irrigator – It is an electronic or battery-powered device that uses a stream of pulsating water to remove plaque and debris from between teeth. Oral irrigators are sufficient for flossing but may not clean as thoroughly as the standard floss (3).

Consult with your dentist and then choose floss that is convenient and fulfills all your dental requirements.

Importance and benefits of flossing daily

  • If you regular floss then you get rid of plaque. Also, you would be able to prevent the buildup of plaque which can lead to tartar. Flossing removes the food particles and plaque that you might not see with your naked eye. Mostly, they are present in areas where a toothbrush cannot reach.
  • Flossing helps prevent tooth decay (4) by getting rid of plaque and reduces the risk of developing gum disease.
  • Flossing gives you the chance to check for any swelling or redness in your gums or mouth. Certain diseases like HIV and certain conditions cause lesions which cause redness and swelling of the gums.
  • Flossing protects against gingivitis by removing plaque and food particles from tooth surfaces. When you stop plaque from accumulating on your teeth, there will be no tartar buildup, and this reduces the risk of losing teeth due to gum disease.
  • Flossing will help you get rid of bad breath. Bad breath can be a sign of illness or disease. Also, bad breath can be the cause of embarrassment in a social setting (5).

Mouthwash helps in getting rid of bad breath but this is not a substitute for flossing. Instead, use mouthwash along with flossing and brushing.

When and how to floss your child’s teeth?

You can start flossing your children’s teeth as soon as they start to fit closely together. The usual age of the child should be in between two and six. Children usually develop the ability to floss on their own around the age of ten.

Flossing from an early age helps form a habit. By the time permanent teeth develop, flossing becomes a part of their daily routine. Use floss which is soft and be very gentle with them, so as not to hurt the gums.

Use kid-friendly floss and follow the same steps for your child when flossing his teeth. If there is slight bleeding at first, but do not panic. But if bleeding doesn’t stop after a week, consult your dentist. (6)

Over to you on how to floss

If you do not know how to floss then you are not alone. I am sure, the above steps would help you in learning the right ways of flossing.

It takes one minute to floss and this one minute of flossing contributes to a healthy oral cavity. Make it a habit of flossing after brushing (2) and teach same to your kids too.

An inexpensive habit along with regular dental visits can help you prevent gum diseases and cavity. Take a step towards a healthier oral cavity. Start flossing, if you don’t floss already.

Unfortunately, most people do not know how to floss. A proper flossing technique involves four steps as wind, guide, glide, and slide.