Proper Flossing Technique – Why It’s So Important

Every time you go to the dentist and see your hygienist what’s the one thing you are sure to hear?… Floss! Floss! Floss!

Few do it on a daily basis. When most people that are asked if they floss regularly they say, “they’re trying” which is code for they’re not doing it regularly. It’s one of the most simple and effective ways to improve your home care, but it is a habit that is universally hated by most.

Even when people do get in their and floss they are often doing it wrong. That’s why knowing the reason we need to floss and have proper flossing technique is so important.

Why Floss?

The long and the short of it is… if your not flossing your not getting your teeth clean! Your only getting half the job done if your only brushing.

You can get all the surfaces of the tooth with your brush, but no matter how good a brusher you are, or how good the brush you own is, it’s not designed to get in between your teeth.

That being said, it means if your not flossing, you’re leaving plaque and food between you teeth which can lead to cavities and/or periodontal disease (gum disease)

If you’re having a chronic problem with bad breath, flossing daily will help that as well. If it has been awhile since being in for a cleaning make sure to get to your dentist. If you have large amount of calculus (tarter) all the flossing in the world is not going to help you until it is removed. After having your cleaning, flossing will allow you to maintain a healthy odor free mouth.

Worthy to note is that periodontal disease has a strong correlation to heart disease later in life, and is the leading cause of tooth loss.

What Floss To Use

  • Generally speaking unwaxed floss is ideal for removing plaque. For those of us with tight contacts (where the teeth touch side by side) the floss shredding can be a problem. In this case a nylon floss such a Glide floss might be a better option.
  • Often a complaint I hear is that people have a hard time getting their hands in their hands mouth and thus have a tough time flossing.

If this is the case a floss pick would likely be a great option for you. (a floss pic is a U shaped holder that floss is held between) There are floss pics that are made with short plastic handles and some made with a toothbrush like handle for greater reach. Try either and see what works for you, the point is that you get something your comfortable using in their between your teeth regularly.

  • Another great option is the use of a water pick. This is a great option especially if you have braces or deep pockets (a large amount of bone loss around you teeth) I would encourage that even with the water pick it is a great Idea to floss as well.

I’ll warn you though the water pick is a great option and I have seen people make dramatic turn arounds in their home care with them, but be prepared when you first start using one it is a bit messy. Stick with it though the more you use it the easier it gets controlling the water.

The Proper Flossing Technique

  1. Start with about 15 to 18 inches of floss.
  2. Wrap the floss ends around both of your middle fingers.
  3. Pull the floss tight using you thumb and index fingers to control the floss.
  4. Gently put the floss between each individual tooth, making sure you go up under the gum line on both sides. (do this in the mirror when you first start. You will get the feel for this as you go)
  5. Move the floss up and down along the side of the tooth 2 or 3 times. (stay well adapted to the tooth. Picture your going down your back with a big bath towel after a shower, that’s how you want to move up and down the tooth)
  6. Advance the floss to use a clean section of floss for each tooth.
  7. Remove floss from between the teeth with the same up and down motion while pulling it out from where the teeth contact.

Don’t Worry About Seeing Some Blood

If you see blood it means their is inflammation in the gum tissue that is their because plaque if being left between the teeth from not flossing. I’ve had many people tell me that they stop flossing because they see this.

It is all the more reason to keep flossing!

If their is a good amount of inflammation (gingivitis) it can take up to 3 weeks for the gums to heal so they are not bleeding. Also, be aware that when you start flossing often it is a bit uncomfortable and sensitive, this too will pass as the gum the tissue heals.

The key thing about flossing is that you are consistent!

What We’ve Learned About Proper Flossing

  • Flossing is important for prevention of cavities and periodontal disease.
  • An added benefit is, it helps our breath.
  • There a some different tools we can use to floss (talk with your hygienist as to what is the best option for you)
  • Review above on how to floss. Doing it right makes all the difference.
  • Take note that if your not getting under the gum line your and only popping the floss between the teeth you are not getting the full benefits from flossing.
  • Don’t let some bleeding and sensitivity deter you from flossing when you get started.

A word of encouragement

Often people start out wanting to floss and take better care and start off well.

Often people slip back into old habits and the flossing slacks off.

Don’t be discouraged if you do. Just get back going with things. This is a habit your trying to form and for some of us that is harder than for others.

Try to just tell yourself that no matter what kind of day its been you going to floss before your head hits the pillow. It really goes very quickly once your in the habit.

With my nearly 20 year of dental experience as a hygienist most tell me that once they get flossing they don’t know what the big deal was.

Just stick with it and in no time you too will be thinking that flossing daily is no big deal.

It will be a big deal to your health!!!

Please as a rule don’t go more than a year without seeing your local dentist. 6 months is ideal, and every 3 months may be necessary if your have periodontal disease. As important as home care is their are many things dental professional are train to look for. Good home care alone will not take care of all your dental needs.

I welcome your thoughts and comments feel free to connect below.

To your health!

Walt RDH

Recommended Floss

Recommended Water Piks





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4 thoughts on “Proper Flossing Technique – Why It’s So Important

  1. I LOVE my water pick, it’s an amazing tool since I personally detest flossing. It’s just something I find so irritating, but I know (as does everyone, right?) that it is important. Working with dentists as a translator, I’ve seen how bad things can get, so I make an effort. Thanks for the info!

  2. Hello Walter, great information on flossing. I visit my dentist every six months for a cleaning, and they have already informed me about the proper flossing techniques. You must brush your teeth, floss, and use mouthwash twice a day. The more you floss in between your teeth, the less blood you will see. Seeing blood is a sign of unhealthy gums, so it’s important to follow these steps on a regular basis. Thanks again, and I wish you the best of luck within the online business!!!

    • Thanks Ahmad, it sound like the office your going to has you well “in the know” and on a routine that works. I’m happy your getting such great care.
      All the best to you as well!

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