The best way to floss is often! Having a solid oral health care routine is vastly important, not only for your dental health, but for the entire body. Flossing can reduce the amount of bad bacteria hiding in between and around your teeth, and discourage plaque build-up. Plaque is the workhorse of cavity formation, so you should do all you can to rid your mouth of it.
Most people brush their teeth daily, if for no other reason than to improve their breath for the day, but many disregard the need for flossing regularly as well. While flossing alone is not enough to keep your mouth healthy and protect your teeth and gums, when used alongside a fluoride toothpaste, it is a wonderful way to clean between your teeth and get where a toothbrush cannot reach.
Standard Flossing Technique
Of course, it isn’t enough to simply floss. It’s important to floss correctly. Improper flossing can potentially damage your teeth and gums. So, if you’re unsure about the right way to clean in between your teeth, here’s a step-by-step guide on the best way to floss.
Step One: Section Your Floss
Section off between one and two feet worth of dental floss. Wind the ends of the string of floss around one finger from each hand. This will help you keep a firm grip on the floss. Try to leave only a few inches of floss exposed to pull through your teeth.
Step Two: Pull Tight
Take up any slack in the string with two free fingers, making sure to pull it tight.
Step Three: Push Between Teeth & Glide
Push the dental floss between the space of two teeth, gliding the string up and down the sides of each surrounding tooth. Make sure not to pull the floss into your gums, as it may cause some gum irritation.
Step Four: Curve Around Base of Tooth
When the floss is near your gums, curve it around the base of one tooth at a time. This will help clean the space between your tooth and gums.
Step Five: Repeat
Remove the floss from between the teeth and repeat these steps on each tooth. It is best to rinse the section of floss or use a new portion of the line with each tooth you clean.
Flossing with Braces
Flossing with wires, brackets, and bands filling your mouth can be difficult. While this method does take longer than standard flossing (roughly 10 - 15 minutes), it will help get a more effective clean for teeth with braces. Waxed floss is less likely to break when making contact with braces, so you may want to choose this option for flossing with braces.
Step One: Section Off Floss
Stand in the mirror, as you will need to be able to see your hands and floss position while flossing with braces. Begin by sectioning off between one and two feet worth of dental floss. As is standard, wind the ends of the string of floss around one finger from each hand. This will help you keep a firm grip on the floss.
Step Two: Move Floss Between Wire & Teeth
Here you have the option to use a floss threader to move the floss up between your braces wire and teeth. Otherwise, you can carefully place the end of the floss through your teeth before winding it around your fingers. Once ready, press the floss between the two teeth as delicately as possible, gliding up and down the sides of each tooth.
Step Three: Curve Around Base of Tooth
When the floss is near your gums, curve it around the base of one tooth at a time. This will help clean the space between your tooth and gums. Make sure not to pull the floss into your gums, as it may cause some gum irritation.
Step Four: Remove Floss
Carefully remove the floss from your gums and take your time unthreading it from behind the wire. This process will take time but helps discourage dislodging a wire as you move. Remove the floss from between the teeth and repeat these steps on each tooth. It is best to rinse the section of floss or use a new portion of the line with each tooth you clean.
If this process seems too daunting or you fear you might damage your braces, there is an option to use a water flosser. A water flosser is an ADA approved device that sprays a stream of pulsing water onto and between your teeth. It is like a gentle pressure washer for your teeth that will help remove food and plaque from the teeth.
How Often To Floss
The ADA recommends brushing our teeth twice per day and also flossing once per day.
If like many others, you find it hard to get into this rhythm, try tempting yourself with different tasting toothpastes, so you have a reason to brush in the morning and evening!
Floss Before or After Brushing?
Most people think to floss after brushing their teeth, but did you know that flossing first is the better option? That’s because flossing loosens food particles and plaque that your toothbrush and toothpaste can then rinse away. If you brush before you floss, plaque may rest on your teeth until your next brushing, so save the brush for last.
Types of Dental Floss
Let’s talk about the different types of floss available.
Standard floss is a thin strand, similar in size to thread, made of nylon. You can likely find it in flavored or unflavored versions. This floss usually comes coiled in a small container that makes it easy to tear off your desired piece length.
We already mentioned this one because it is a great buddy for your braces. Wax helps resist breaking, so it’s great for flossing with braces. If you have crowded teeth, wax floss can make it easier to clean between them.
This is a wider category of floss, more like a ribbon, which makes flossing larger spaces in between your teeth easier, with less effort.
Floss picks are well suited for use by adults and children, alike. These flossers are made up of two useful ends. On one end, a small string of floss is suspended between a u-shaped prong. It works like having floss coiled tightly around your fingers, without all the work. On the other end a small plastic point exists to help pick out any food bits stuck between your teeth. Floss picks are like floss and toothpicks on one handy stick.
Floss threaders are useful when flossing between braces, bridges, or other dental hardware. This type of floss contains a firm end, which helps move past braces or between bridges and your gums. Threaders also have a spongy portion that cleans around your appliances gently. Finally the standard floss portion allows you to floss between teeth as usual, fighting off plaque inside the gums.
The type of floss you choose to use will depend on the spacing of your teeth, whether appliances are currently on your teeth, and your general preference. If you don’t wear braces but you still prefer to use a floss threader, that’s fine! Whichever version helps encourage you to floss regularly is a great choice.
A Complete Oral Health Routine
Flossing alone cannot maintain optimum oral health, but it is a helpful as part of a steady oral health routine.
To maximize your oral wellness, your daily routine should consist of the following:
BrushYour Teeth Twice Every Day
You can also add a brush sesh after eating or drinking foods that might want to stick to your enamel or wedge down into your teeth. Brush as often as you need to, but brush gently to protect your enamel.
Drink Lots of Water
Keeping the water flowing will help cleanse your teeth and gums by naturally rinsing away unwanted food, sugars, and bacteria. Plus, water is good for you overall, so drink up!
Rinse with a Mouthwash
Just like flossing, mouthwash can get into those places that a toothbrush alone cannot. Loosen up foods that may get stuck by using mouthwash regularly.
Limit the Intake of Foods that Pose Risks to Your Enamel & Gum Health
Doing this is another very important way to save your teeth and gums from unnecessary damage. If you have to eat something especially sugary, starchy, or acidic, brush or rinse with a mouthwash just afterward to minimize plaque potential.
If you add flossing to your daily (or nightly) oral hygiene routine, you are taking a great step into a future of healthy teeth and gums. As you keep up your new routine, make sure you are also scheduling and prioritizing regular dental visits for check-ups, cleanings, and fluoride treatments. These should be done at least twice every year.
This page was written or reviewed for accuracy by the Twice Team. Learn more about us.