Flossing is a key component of an oral hygiene routine to ensure healthy teeth and gums. The American Dental Association recommends flossing a minimum of once per day in order to get rid of plaque in areas between the teeth that are difficult or impossible to reach with a toothbrush. Flossing is critical for oral health because plaque build-up eventually hardens into tartar or calculus. Flossing also plays a role in cavity and gum disease prevention.
Why is flossing so important?
Flossing takes care of about 40 percent of the work required to get rid of plaque or bacteria in your mouth. Plaque build-up leads to acid production, which can irritate the gums and increase the risk of cavities and gum disease. Every tooth has five surfaces. When you don't floss, at least two of the surfaces don't get cleaned properly.Flossing regularly is the only effective way to remove bacteria from in between the teeth.
Does it matter what type of floss I use?
Many people get so caught up in worrying about what type of floss to use and when they should be flossing that they don't actually floss. Choose a product specifically designed for flossing such as dental floss, a pre-threaded flosser, a dental pick, a water flosser, a wooden plaque remover, or tiny brushes that get in between the teeth. Whenever possible, choose a product with the ADA Seal of Acceptance to guarantee safe, effective flossing.
You may need to experiment with several types of flossing devices or even multiple types of dental floss (i.e. waxed, unwaxed, thick) before you find one that works well for you and your dental needs. Do you have gum recession or larger spaces between your teeth? Most likely you'll get better results with a wide, flat dental tape. Are your teeth close together? Opt for a thin floss that is advertised as shred resistant.
Should I floss before or after I brush my teeth?
As long as you floss properly once a day, it doesn't matter when you do it. Some people like to floss first thing in the morning when they're wide awake while other people would rather floss when they get ready for bed so that they can go to sleep with clean mouths. Other people would rather get it out of the way right after lunch to reduce the risk of walking around the office all afternoon with something stuck in their teeth. Pick a time of day that works well for your schedule so that you're more likely to stick with it.
How do I know that I'm flossing properly?
Flossing should never be painful. It's important to find a middle ground that allows you to get food out from between your teeth without damaging the tissue. Mild discomfort during initial flossing is completely normal. As long as you're flossing with proper technique, the discomfort should subside within one or two weeks. If it doesn't subside, consult with your dentist.
If you choose to use dental floss to floss your teeth, break off about 18 inches of floss. Wind most of it around one of your middle fingers. You will use your opposite middle finger to collect the floss as it becomes dirty. Grip the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers. Guide the floss gently along the gum line curve into a C shape at the base of each tooth, making sure to floss up and down between the teeth as well. Avoid snapping the floss into the gums. Don't forget to slide in between the gums and teeth and to floss the back side of the teeth furthest back in your mouth.
When should my kids start flossing?
Once a child has at least two teeth that are touching, you should start flossing his or her teeth. As most young children don't have the dexterity necessary to floss properly, most likely you'll have to assist your kids with their flossing until age 10 or 11.
If you ever have any questions about flossing from the kind of floss that will work best for you to your risk of periodontal disease, talk to your dentist or another.