How to Floss Your Teeth Correctly
Flossing Can Seem Daunting
Did you know it's important to floss correctly? You can permanently damage your gum tissues by flossing incorrectly, and there's a much greater likelihood of developing cavities between your teeth if you aren't removing all the biofilm daily.
Everybody has biofilm (plaque) between their teeth, and everybody needs to floss--it's a fact of life. Though dentists and hygienists recommend flossing once a day, many people aren't sure how to floss their teeth.
I've noticed that many people jab the floss between their teeth, move it around and back and forth with no real methodology, and think that's all there is to it, and that it's effective. It's often not effective at all, and actually does damage to the gums.
It is very simple to floss correctly, but like most things, it's only simple when you know how to do it. There are right ways and wrong ways of going about it. I'll outline the methods accepted by dental hygienists below.
- For more on why we need to floss daily, please refer to my article Germs, Gingivitis, And Why You Should Floss.
- Break off 12-18 inches (30-45 cm) of dental floss.
- Wrap the floss around your middle fingers and pinch it with each thumb and index finger.
- Slip the floss between your teeth (between the "contacts" where the teeth touch). Make a "C" shape with the floss around each tooth. Gently move the floss up and down 5-8 times. When the floss becomes coated, move to a clean piece. You can do this by wrapping the floss around your non-dominant middle finger once, while unwrapping it once from your dominant middle finger.
- Alternative: Use a "floss holder" to floss, using the same methodology.
1. Break Off 12-18 Inches (30-45cm) of Floss
Why do we need so much floss? Well, when the floss gets dirty with bacteria and gunk, we want to move to a fresh piece. This ensures that we're getting rid of the bacteria, which is actually the point of flossing.
Personally, I prefer to use about 12 inches (30cm) of floss. Practice using different lengths of floss until you find what you like the best. Too much floss can cut off the circulation in your fingers, while too little floss defeats the purpose of flossing.
2. Wrap the Floss Around Your Fingers
The basic way to do this is to use your "middle" fingers on each hand. In your non-dominant hand, wrap the floss twice around your middle finger. In your dominant hand, wrap the floss around your middle finger until there are a couple inches of "free" floss between your hands. This "free" floss will help ensure that your gums are not harmed by undue force. Please see video below.
Video: How to Wrap the Floss Around Your Fingers
3. Wrap Floss Around Teeth Using "C" Shape
In dental hygiene and dentistry, this is called "The C-Shape Method" of flossing. This method is the accepted method of flossing because it removes the most plaque and debris from between the teeth and under the gumline. In addition, it does the least damage to your gum tissue.
First you need to work the floss between the "contacts" where two teeth meet (if they meet). The easiest way to accomplish this is by gently moving the floss back and forth while giving slight pressure.
When the floss is between your teeth, arc the floss in a "C" shape around one tooth, move it up and down, and then move to the tooth beside it. Please see video, below.
- For a fantastic visual representation of the C-shape method of flossing, visit DentalPictureShow here.
Video: Using the C-Shape Method
4. Using a Floss Pick / Floss Holder to Floss
Many people prefer using a floss pick, or "floss holder" to floss their teeth. I would say that this is fine, but it is more difficult to use the "C"-Shape Method, thus may not be quite as effective as string floss.
That said, however, any flossing is better than none, and with a little practice, you may be able to implement the "C"-shape method to a large degree. Please see video, below.
Clean As You Go
As you're flossing, rinse the floss as you go. Follow with mouthwash. You want all the bacteria out, multiple times per day!
Re-Using Floss Picks
You can re-use floss picks a few times until the string is no longer tight or is frayed. Be sure to rub the gunk off the string under water, and follow with a dip into Listerine (a very effective natural antibacterial.) Let air dry between uses.
Video: Using a Floss Pick
Flossing is easy when you know how to do it! With a little practice it should only take a few minutes per day. Flossing is virtually the most important step in oral health and hygiene.
Hopefully you will now understand the proper methods used in dentistry and dental hygiene; however, if you have any additional questions, please feel free to ask them in the Comments section below!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2010 Kate P