How to Floss Your Teeth

It's vital to learn how to floss your teeth.  The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends flossing your teeth every day.  Flossing is an important part of your daily dental care routine and should not be skipped.  Plaque and food get stuck between your teeth and clearly brushing alone will not remove these particles.

Proper flossing is needed to make your teeth clean.  So, how to properly floss?

5 Steps showing how to floss your teeth

The ADA recommends these 5 steps to properly floss your teeth:

  1. Wind 18 inches of floss around one of your middle fingers and then wind the rest around your other middle finger.
  2. Hold the floss tightly between your thumb and forefinger. Then gently insert the floss between your teeth.
  3. By holding the floss horizontal to the tooth, curve the floss into a "C" shape against the side of the tooth.
  4. Gently rub the floss up and down. Keep the floss pressed against the tooth.  Be careful not to jerk or snap the floss.
  5. Use this technique to properly floss all of your teeth. And remember to floss behind your back teeth!

Here's a handy .pdf from the ADA showing these 5 steps.

Showing how to floss your teeth

How to floss your teeth with braces

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) describes how to floss your teeth with braces.  For the most part it is just like the instructions from the ADA.

Here are a few things to keep in mind with braces.

  1. You must thread the floss over the archwire that wraps your braces around you teeth.
  2. 2.  Threading the floss is made easier by a tool known as a floss threader, ask your orthodontist for details.
  3. The ADA has awarded their seal of approval to water flossers, such as Waterpik, for use when you have braces.
  4. Be careful to gently remove the floss from between your teeth, jerking it away can pull off your wire.
  5. Braces make cleaning your teeth more difficult.  Take your time flossing your teeth while you have braces.
How to floss your teeth with braces

When is the best time to floss your teeth?

The ADA recommends that that you brush your teeth twice per day and floss once per day to avoid a cavity or root canal.  Some people prefer to floss before going to sleep.  This keeps the teeth clean at night when your mouth is dry and bacteria are more able to grow.  Some people like to floss in the morning or even after they eat lunch.

The most important thing is to floss once per day.  Floss at the time that is best for you.

Brush first or floss first?

Some suggest it is better to floss first to get plaque out from between the teeth and then remove it from your teeth by brushing.  This seems reasonable and really no one is disagreeing with this order of doing things.

Still, the ADA points out that some people prefer to brush first and then floss.  They say this order is acceptable as well.  The most important thing is to do a thorough cleaning.  Above all floss your teeth because if you decide to do it later you may forget and you will miss out on flossing.

Can I rinse and reuse floss?

Using a strand of floss more than once is not recommended by the ADA.  While a strand of floss is used it may fray and bacteria from your mouth may grow on the floss after use.  Discard each strand of floss after use.

Brush first or floss first

Types of dental floss

There are a number of varieties of dental floss.  In general though there are two main types of floss.

  1.  Multifilament floss – Includes types such as nylon and silk floss made up of many smaller strands.
  2. Monofilament floss – Includes rubber or plastic floss with just one filament strand.

The ADA does not recommend any particular type of floss.  In fact they recommend that you try different types until you find one you prefer and then use that type.

The most important thing is to thoroughly floss each day and when you have a floss you like then you are more likely to floss your teeth.

Types of dental floss

Water flossers

Water flossers have received the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance.  These are products that clean the gums and between the teeth with a stream of water.  One well known brand is Waterpik.

This alternative may be considered by people who are not comfortable or able to floss.  Remember, it’s not all about how to floss your teeth – find an ADA accepted method and include it in your routine.

Floss for good oral health

Plaque, bacteria, and food get stuck between your teeth.  The ADA states that it is necessary to learn how to floss your teeth properly to maintain good oral health.

Tooth decay and periodontitis (gum disease) are caused by these things that get stuck between your teeth.  Follow the steps in this article to keep your mouth healthy and clean.

For an urgent dental situation contact a 24 Hour Dentist near you, walk in Dentist near you, pediatric dentist, sedation dentist, or even a Sunday Dentist near you.

Water flossers