Am I Flossing Properly?

Aug 02, 2023
Am I Flossing Properly?
It takes a little practice to get the hang of flossing; even then, you may wonder if you’re doing it correctly. Or maybe you have questions about when or how to floss. Let’s explore the answers in detail.

Flossing is just as essential for your dental health as brushing because it’s the only way to remove plaque and pieces of food from between your teeth and under the gumline.

Plaque contains decay-causing bacteria, which stick to your teeth, giving the bacteria plenty of time to cause decay or infections. Plaque that stays on your teeth hardens into tartar, which you can’t remove with flossing or brushing.

Roy Hudgens, DMD, and the team at Hudgens Dental, located in Charleston, South Carolina, are glad to teach you how to brush and floss properly. If you have questions after reading the information here, don’t hesitate to call and schedule an appointment.

Flossing basics

Before getting into the details about how to floss, let’s answer a few questions that our patients often ask:

How often should I floss?

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends flossing once daily. Of course, you can floss more often, especially if you have a bothersome piece of food stuck in your teeth. But avoid flossing so frequently or vigorously that you irritate or damage your gums.

When should I floss?

When you floss doesn’t matter as much as flossing regularly and doing it correctly. Whether you floss at bedtime or in the morning, be sure you have enough time to do a thorough job and stick with that time to build a habit.

Should I brush before or after flossing?

A study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that flossing before brushing removed more plaque than brushing first. Flossing first loosens the plaque, and brushing clears it away.

Do I need to floss above a dental bridge?

Yes, it’s essential to floss above the bridge. You can use a floss threader to pull a strand of floss between the bridge and the gum. Then, move the floss back and forth along the top of the bridge to dislodge food particles.

How to floss properly

If you’re just starting to floss, it may take some practice before it feels natural. These are the steps to follow when using a traditional strand of dental floss:

  1. Pull off about 18 inches of floss.
  2. Wrap one end of the floss several times around your right middle finger, then wrap the other end around your left middle finger.
  3. Keep wrapping until there’s just enough floss between your two hands to hold both sides with your index finger and thumb while still having enough floss to manipulate between your teeth.
  4. Use your index finger and thumb to guide the floss between two teeth.
  5. Press the floss against the side of one tooth, forming a C-shape that wraps slightly around the tooth.
  6. Gently move the floss up and down, making sure the floss goes below the gumline (without bumping into the top of your gum).
  7. Press the floss against the side of the other tooth and repeat the movement.
  8. Repeat the process between every tooth using a new, clean section of the floss (wrapping the old piece around one finger while unwinding to release fresh floss from the other).

About flossing tools

There are many flossing tools to choose from, making it easier to find options that work best for you:

Types of floss

You only need one tool — dental floss — to floss the traditional way by following the instructions above. However, there are different types of floss.

The two most important variables are the width of the floss and whether it’s waxed or unwaxed. Thin and unwaxed floss usually works better if your teeth are close together. Other choices, like using mint-flavored floss, depend on your preferences.

Floss picks

A floss pick is a plastic device that holds a piece of floss on one end and has a handle you use to guide the floss between your teeth. You may find a floss pick easier to use than wrapping the floss around your fingers.

Children can start flossing their own teeth around age 10. At that age, a floss pick is often easier for them to manage.

Electric flossers

You may want to consider an electric air or water flosser. Water flossers use pressurized water to remove plaque, while air flossers use a stream of air with a minimal amount of water. If you choose a water flosser, begin on a low-pressure setting to protect your gums.

Call Hudgens Dental or book an appointment online if you have questions about or need help with flossing.