How to Floss Correctly

Most people know how important it is to brush their teeth twice a day as part of their oral hygiene regimen. But what most people “brush” over is flossing. Brushing your teeth only removes the bacteria and leftover food particles that are easy to reach and remove, but flossing gets the bacteria that build up in the tiny spaces between our teeth and around the gums.

Oral bacteria builds up naturally throughout the course of the day, and brushing does remove a lot of it. Over time, especially in areas the toothbrush can’t reach, the bacteria combines with saliva and food particles to create plaque, a sticky but clear substance that adheres to your teeth. Plaque can build up in between teeth and around the gums, and the only way to remove it is to floss once a day.

How to Floss

Flossing is an easy, effective way to prevent complex and painful dental problems. Here’s how to floss the right way so you can keep your smile healthy.

  1. Wrap an eighteen-inch piece of floss around your middle fingers. You’ll move the floss with your forefingers and thumbs. Be sure to wind more around one finger than the other so you can wind the dirty floss toward the finger with less floss around it.
  2. Push the floss between two teeth and use a gentle “sawing” motion all the way from the top of the teeth down to their base where they erupt from your gums.
  3. Wrap the floss around the side of one tooth, making a “U” shape then gently slide up and down your tooth. Repeat this several times, making sure to go slightly underneath the gum-line, then repeat on the other side of the tooth.
  4. Before moving to another tooth, be sure to use a clean length of floss by winding the dirty piece around the finger with less floss on it.

Things to Know

Don’t be alarmed if your gums bleed a little bit as you floss, as this is due to inflammation caused by the bacteria dwelling there. If you floss every day, you’ll notice an improvement in one to two weeks.

Some people prefer to use floss picks, which is certainly preferable to not flossing at all, but these are less effective than using string floss. Floss picks do not allow you to make the “U” shape around each tooth, which is less effective at removing bacteria.

When choosing a dental floss, make sure that it is American Dental Association approved to be safe for use. You should only use a length of floss once. Bacteria that has been removed on floss can linger and make you sick if reintroduced later.

Research recommends flossing after you brush as there will already be less plaque and food particles to get stuck on the floss. If you have any additional questions about brushing, flossing or your oral health, call (919) 213-9767 or schedule an appointment online with Chapel Hill Family and Cosmetic Dentistry today.