For over one hundred years, flossing has been the go-to tip of dentists and hygienists. It’s one simple step to take after brushing, but it makes the biggest difference to our teeth staying clean and our gums staying healthy.
But just because a person uses floss doesn’t mean they’ll see results.
Most people don’t floss perfectly, and it’s normal to wonder: am I flossing right?
To help you improve, we’re sharing five simple tips for a flawless floss and dazzling smile.
1. Floss Length
Dental flossing works by dislodging food that gets stuck between your teeth and lifting and removing plaque. Plaque is harmful because its bacteria produce acids that destroy tooth enamel. You need this tooth enamel to protect your inner teeth from sugars and other corrosive foods that will damage your gums and cause pain through your nerves.
For these reasons, even the CDC recommends getting your flossing routine down pat.
And you can start by adjusting your floss length. You want to find a comfortable length to gain control and floss your teeth without getting achy arms.
Most dental professionals will recommend 18 inches for floss length. The next time you floss, take a ruler and measure out this length. Once you get a precise measurement for a few nights in a row, then you can eyeball the length.
2. Create Enough Tension
The next step is making sure that there is enough tension when you hold the floss. While it is wrapped around your middle fingers, you also have to hold the floss between your thumb and forefingers, gripping it tightly. This is because if you do not have control, or if it is loose, it will make some later flossing steps more difficult to carry out.
Once you have your floss, take the string and twist most of it around the middle finger of one hand, leaving a length of floss in between. Then, twist the remainder of the floss on your other hand’s middle finger. Dentist professionals and associations from around the world recommend this technique because it applies enough tension to adequately remove plaque without harming the gums.
3. Flossing the Right Area
Next up, you have to make sure that you are flossing the right areas.
When you place the floss between your teeth, make sure to curve it, almost making a ‘C’ shape, bulling against the side of one of the teeth. This way, the floss is in full contact with the tooth and can properly rub against the plaque.
If you are new to dental flossing, your gums might initially bleed. However, do not be concerned. This could be for several reasons. Your technique might be a bit rough, which is why it is important to follow this guide, or it might just be because your gums aren’t used to it. If this is the case, after a week of flossing, it should stop.
It could also be a sign of gingivitis, a common and mild gum disease when the gum at the base of your tooth becomes irritated or swells.
Dental flossing and keeping good oral hygiene will help to combat and prevent gingivitis. But if bleeding continues, or if the blood is excessive, you must consult a medical professional.
4. Your Rubbing Technique
We recommend rubbing the side of the tooth correctly. You don’t want to be overly aggressive because you will end up harming the tooth and gums.
You mustn’t dive the floss string into the gum, and this will cause damage to it. Instead, just gently rub the side of your tooth, moving the floss upwards and downwards. As you near the gum, recreate the curved ‘C’ shape we spoke about above and pull the floss upwards.
Then, all you have to do is repeat this action in between each tooth.
5. Floss the Whole Mouth
Flossing one area of the mouth isn’t enough; you must go through these motions for the space in between every tooth. This is because flossing is only truly efficient if the whole mouth is fully cleared of food and plaque.
Remember that food rots in your mouth, causing unpleasant smells and affecting the surrounding tooth. Plaque is actually a layer of bacteria that is eroding your teeth, and the more you can remove it, the healthier your entire mouth will be. You really don’t want to take any chances and leave bits of food in your mouth to build up and create plaque.
So, to make sure that you cover every gap, we recommend starting at the back of the mouth on one side, following the upper mouth to the other side, and then repeating this motion on the bottom. This way, you won’t get distracted and forget which teeth have been flossed and which have not.
Once you are finished, make sure to throw your floss away, as it is covered in bacteria. Never reuse the same floss twice
For those who want to go the extra mile, there are things that you can do to clean your teeth to aid your flossing:
You can use ‘interdental cleaners’ that are little brushes, which can be used if you have larger gaps in your teeth, missing teeth, or for accessing tricky areas if you have braces.
For further help, you can use ‘interdental tips,’ which are rubber tips that people run across their gumline to remove any extra food or plaque after dental flossing.
People who have Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, or have a disability that restricts arm movement, may find it difficult to floss using a string. A solution is water flossing, where handheld devices blast away plaque and food between your teeth, helping to clean them.
Now you no longer need to worry that your flossing technique isn’t quite right. By following these simple steps, you o can improve your flossing game, reduce the amount of plaque in your mouth, and improve your teeth and gums.
So follow this advice from dentists, researchers, and hygienists worldwide and start flossing flawlessly tonight.