If you can’t wrap your head around how to floss, we’re here to help you out. Welcome to the fourth chapter of our Oral Hygiene guide. According to dental experts, flossing incorrectly can be quite damaging to your teeth. It serves no purpose if you are not doing it properly and damaging your teeth instead.
No worries though, we’re here to guide you through the entire process so you can be a pro at flossing. You may not learn it overnight but with practice, you can do it effortlessly.
Learn all the tips and tricks about how to floss so that you can improve your oral health.
What is the best way to floss?
Since flossing requires technique, people are often curious about “what is the best way to floss”. The main purpose of flossing is to remove debris from areas your toothbrush cannot reach. The target areas must be between the teeth and gums. That’s where the food particles tend to sit and cause plaque.
The best way to floss is to wrap around 18 to 24 inches of floss around the middle fingers. Leave 1 to 2 inches of the string for the teeth and maneuver it by holding it with your thumb and index fingers. Form a c-shape with the floss and move it up and down between your teeth. Seems simple enough at first, but let’s dive deeper so we can explain the intricacies of these steps.
How to floss properly in 6 easy steps
Incorrect flossing can lead to multiple issues so it is best to learn how to floss properly. Here is a step-by-step guide:
- STEP 1: Pick a floss as per your requirements
- STEP 2: Take a measured amount
- STEP 3: Be mindful of how you hold the thread
- STEP 4: Use the “C” shape technique
- STEP 5: Use an interdental brush (optional)
- STEP 6: Brush your teeth
STEP 1: Pick a floss as per your requirements
First and foremost, pick a floss that suits your needs and limitations. If you find regular string floss a bit harsh, you can opt for tape floss. If you wear braces or retainers or you have a bridge, you can opt for super floss. Thus, choose the one that suits your individual dental situation. Better yet, take your hygienist’s input so you know you are on the right path.
STEP 2: Take a measured amount
Now pull out 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 cm) of dental floss and prepare it to place it between your hands. This length allows you to use it with ease and without any limitations. If you take less than this length, you may struggle with your flossing.
STEP 3: Be mindful of how you hold the thread
To keep a tight and steady grip, wrap the string around the two middle fingers. You must spare 1 to 2 inches (3-5 cm) of floss for your teeth. Now hold the string from the middle with both hands using your thumb and index finger. This way you can balance and control the movements in a more effective way.
STEP 4: Use the “C” shape technique
Once you have a tight grip on the floss with your fingers, you can now use the C-shape technique. Bend the string in a way that looks like the letter C. As you make a “C” shape with your floss, more like a hook, push it against the space between the tooth. With this technique, you can reach all the gaps between teeth and get rid of food particles.
Starting from the top, slide it all the way down to the gums. Make sure to be gentle and not hurt your gums. Once done, slide the thread all the way up and take it out.
Repeat the same movement between every tooth. Flossing on average should take 2 to 3 minutes. Anything less than 90 seconds means that you are rushing it and not cleaning properly.
STEP 5: Use an interdental brush (optional)
Once you finish cleaning all your teeth, you can add an extra step to your flossing routine. Interdental brushes are small brushes you can use between teeth to draw out debris. Think of them as toothpicks with a soft cleaning sponge at the end. They are gentle on your gums and clean anything that’s left between your teeth.
STEP 6: Brush your teeth
The final step is to brush your teeth if you prefer brushing your teeth after flossing. Brushing is just as important as flossing, but it is up to you if you want to brush before or after. If you floss before brushing, you are allowing fluoride to be more effective on your teeth. If you floss after brushing, there are higher chances of plaque build-up.
But ultimately it is your choice, as long as you are flossing every day.
Extra tip: Flossing your back teeth
It is quite common to hear people ask how to floss your back teeth. It can be a bit tricky, but it is possible to do it with ease. Popular belief is to open the mouth wide open, but that’s not true because it actually restricts movement.
The right way is to relax your cheek muscles and not open your mouth wide open. Just open it slightly and push each cheek behind with part of the floss. Believe it or not but it gets a lot easier this way to maneuver around the back teeth. You can also watch some online tutorials to learn how to floss your back teeth.
How do you know if you did it correctly?
If you are curious about how to know if you are flossing correctly there are signs you can look out for. You can never go wrong with flossing unless you are being too rough or your technique is wrong. Following are the signs you are doing something wrong and need to consult a dental expert asap:
- Bleeding gums after flossing
- Irritation or inflammation around the gums
- Your sensitivity is getting worse
- Bruising on gums
Of course, some of these signs could be caused by other problems, such as gingivitis. If you are still experiencing these issues after a week of flossing consistently, you should probably pay a visit to your dentist, and opt for an alternative tool to flossing like an interdental brush.
How often should you be flossing, and when is the best time?
So where does flossing fall into your routine? It’s okay to be confused, you might be used to flossing at a certain time of the day, or you might be just starting to incorporate it into your routine. Don’t worry, we got you.
In short, you should floss at least once a day, whenever you want. However, if you’d like to increase the benefits and the effectiveness of flossing, let us explain to you the optimal time and frequency you should be flossing your teeth.
Floss at least once a day, but don’t overdo it!
There is often confusion about “how often should you floss” everywhere in the world. A general consensus is that flossing must be a part of your oral hygiene once every day. Dentists worldwide and American Dental Association also endorse flossing at least once a day to avoid plaque/tartar build-up. Dental experts also advise finding time during the day when you can properly floss rather than rushing it. Flossing incorrectly is almost the same as not flossing at all. For a better explanation, we recommend you have a detailed discussion with your dentist.
When it comes to how many times you should floss in a day, avoid doing it more than twice. Excessive flossing can cause serious damage to your gums and gum line. It can affect the elasticity of gums and expose them to bacteria more. Thus, do not floss more than once or maximum twice a day. We’d advise you to keep these pointers in mind because if you overdo or floss incorrectly, it can do more damage than good.
The burning question: Should you floss before or after brushing?
A new study found that flossing before brushing might be more effective to reduce bacteria and plaque buildup. Also, many dentists say bedtime is the best time for flossing. Going to bed with a clean mouth after you floss and brush can help the fluoride get between your teeth and work its magic.
If you prefer flossing after brushing, a pro tip would be to not rinse your mouth and let the toothpaste sit on your teeth., or you can smear some toothpaste on your floss. This way, the toothpaste can help you scrub away the buildup and deliver fluoride to those nooks and crannies. You can finish the routine with an anti-bacterial mouthwash to prevent tartar build-up.
Should you floss after every meal?
Flossing after every meal is not necessary. As we have said, you shouldn’t be flossing your teeth more than twice a day. If you have more time on your hands after a meal to do it properly, or the food stuck between your teeth is getting annoying, there is no harm in flossing after a meal. Just make sure that you wait for at least 30 minutes before you start.
Flossing made easy: Tips and Tricks
Some people find flossing somewhat complicated so they often ask “how to make flossing easier”. If you’re a beginner, it may overwhelm you but once you get used to it, we assure you it gets easier. Having said that, consistency is key and you can master the technique in no time. Here are a few ways how to make flossing easier and less complicated for yourself:
- Ask your hygienist for help
- Watch tutorials
- Water flossers to the rescue
- Use floss picks if string floss is not working for you
- Use an interdental brush
- Find a combo that works for you
Ask your hygienist for help
There’s no better person for guidance than your hygienist to make flossing easier for you. If you ask your hygienist about the proper technique, we’re sure they will demonstrate it for you.
Self-help can also be a good start to your flossing journey. If you’re a beginner and want to learn how to make flossing easier for you, you can watch tutorial videos. Make sure that you’re learning from healthcare professionals online, and if something feels different or fishy, consult your dentist before using a different technique.
Water flossers to the rescue
If you find the idea of flossing with a string laborious, you can try water flossers. They are all the rage these days because of the convenience they provide. They are not as effective as regular floss but if it makes flossing easier for you, we say why not!
Use floss picks instead of string floss
Sometimes people find regular floss too harsh on their gums or find it hard to master its technique. Rather than not flossing at all, you can opt for floss picks. It is a type of floss that comes with a thread attached to a plastic handle. It is more convenient than the regular thread version because you can control your movement with a better grip. They might not be as effective as the regular thing, but you can get the most out of them by using them properly.
Using floss picks: 3 simple steps
If you think you’d prefer floss picks, you need to know how to properly floss with floss picks. Floss picks are much easier to use than string floss. They are suitable for people with manual dexterity issues because of the plastic handle. They provide more ease and comfort to the user and this is how to properly floss with floss picks:
- Grab your floss pick and press the thread into the space between teeth one by one.
- Make sure you repeat the same movement between every tooth, including your molars at the back. Don’t forget to press against the gums gently to remove trapped debris.
- Rinse or clean the thread with a washcloth as you clean each tooth.
Find a combo that works for you
The best way to make flossing easier for you is by experimenting with different products. That way you can find flossing products that are convenient for you. For instance, if you find regular flossing difficult, you can use a floss pick along with a water flosser. The floss pick cleans the part between the teeth whereas a water flosser cleans the gum area.
Tips to make flossing easier if you have braces
Flossing with braces can be a bit of a task and you must be wondering how to floss with braces. Don’t worry because when there’s a will, there’s a way. And mind you, flossing is important for all of us but especially, if you have braces. The best flossing tools for people with braces are super floss and water flossers.
With super floss, you can clean the gums as well as your tooth. Since it comes with a stiff end it can be inserted easily from the gap between each tooth. Wrap the thread around your middle fingers and move it between the teeth and the lower part of the gums. Repeat the same on the upper part of the tooth to remove debris from between the tooth.
Water flossers can also work wonders for people with braces. All you have to do is point the device to the gum line and around every orthodontic bracket. The only downside is that it cannot clean the area between teeth. We recommend you use a super floss along with it for proper flossing.
Floss / interdental cleaners. American Dental Association. (n.d.). Retrieved December 30, 2022, from https://www.ada.org/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/floss
Mazhari F., Boskabady M., Moeintaghavi A., Habibi A., The effect of toothbrushing and flossing sequence on interdental plaque reduction and fluoride retention: A randomized controlled clinical trial, Journal of Periodontology, 2018. Link: https://aap.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/JPER.17-0149