You may already be brushing your teeth twice a day. This should be an important part of your oral hygiene regimen. Equally important, if not more so, is flossing. Brushing only affects the bacteria and particles that are easy to reach and remove. This bacteria combines with saliva and food particles to create plaque, a sticky but clear and colorless substance that adheres to your teeth. Plaque creates a fertile environment for tooth decay and eventually cavities.

This where flossing comes in. Flossing can remove the plaque that your toothbrush cannot reach in places such as in between your teeth. However, it is important that you are flossing correctly. As the old adage says “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Flossing can be that ounce of prevention, helping you to avoid painful, time-consuming and potentially costly dental procedures that may become necessary due to tooth decay being allowed to flourish unchecked between teeth.

But how are we supposed to floss? What is the proper technique? The steps below will educate you on the proper method. See if your flossing measures up to how the professionals (your dentist) recommends you do it.

  1. Around your middle fingers wrap a length of floss about eighteen inches long. You can use your thumbs and forefingers to move the floss. Wind more around one finger than the other so you can wind the dirty used floss toward the finger with less floss wrapped around it and use a fresh length.
  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. Again make sure you wind up the floss around your finger so you’re using a clean length of floss for each space between your teeth that you floss.
  5. Do not be alarmed if you see that your gums are bleeding as you floss. This is due to inflammation caused by the bacteria dwelling there. If you floss daily as recommended by your dentist, you should see an improvement in the health of gums in one to two weeks.

Some people prefer to use floss picks, which are “Y” shaped pieces of plastic with floss strung between the “arms” of the “Y”. Although using these is preferable to not flossing at all, dentists prefer using a length of “free” floss and your hands. Floss picks are at a disadvantage when it comes to proper flossing as you cannot wrap them around a tooth in the “U” shape recommended above due to it being already strung in a straight line.  

“Super floss”, a special thick and fuzzy type of floss, is also available. This type of floss is used to floss between teeth with extra space in between them. For teeth with very little space between them, squeezing even regular floss in between can be difficult. Floss can become stuck, shred or even break. These difficulties can lead to people choosing not to floss due to frustration. Waxed floss is available to help you get into those tight spaces you may have between your teeth.  

Whatever you choose 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 your 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 252.507.0373 or schedule an appointment online with Dr. J. Stephen Hoard today.

Posted in: bleeding gums, Dental Care, General Dentistry, oral hygiene