Are You Flossing Your Teeth Right?

Flossing is one of the most important steps in your daily oral hygiene. This simple action removes food stuck between teeth and cleans the areas your toothbrush does not reach. In turn, this reduces the plaque and bacteria left on your teeth, where they contribute to cavities and gum disease.

When you visit your dental clinic and they ask you if you have been flossing your teeth, what is your answer? Have you been flossing your teeth right, if at all? Surprisingly, only about 38 percent of Canadians floss each day.

Flossing improperly can hurt your teeth and gums. If you feel pain or bleed when flossing, you are likely not doing it right. In fact, you may be flossing wrong even if it does not cause discomfort. Below, we look at proper flossing and how you can perform this daily task more easily and effectively for better oral health.

Instructions for Flossing Your Teeth Properly

 There are several steps to proper teeth flossing. These steps include:

  • Tear off 18 to 24 inches of dental floss
  • Wind the floss around your middle fingers with only about two inches’ of string left between your two fingers
  • Hold the floss between your fingers taut
  • Gently glide the floss between two teeth
  • Glide the floss toward the gum line and away again, rubbing your tooth sides but not touching the gums
  • Near the gum line, curve the floss toward each side of the tooth to allow it to enter the area between your tooth and gums

Repeat these steps for each tooth, using a clean area on the floss as you go.

How do I floss teeth with braces?

Flossing with braces is certainly more difficult and takes a bit more care. You should always take this process slowly, typically allowing up to 15 minutes each day.

With braces, it is important to use waxed floss. The wax enables the floss to slide gently between teeth and around brackets, not getting as easily stuck on the hardware.

 To floss with braces, follow these steps:

  • Use 18 to 24 inches of waxed floss
  • Stand close to a mirror to guide yourself through the next steps
  • Thread floss between two teeth and your braces’ primary wire
  • Twist the floss ends around a finger on each hand to easily move it around
  • Be gentle when pressing the floss between the teeth
  • Move the floss up and down between the two teeth
  • Form an upside-down U with your dental floss at the gum line on top teeth to guide it between your tooth and gums

If you have braces, consider getting a Waterpik or other water flosser for easier cleaning between teeth.

Best Time of Day for Flossing

Besides following the above steps, you need to know when to floss each day. Obviously, you brush your teeth first thing in the morning and before you go to bed at night. But most people get the timing of flossing wrong, choosing to perform this oral hygiene step after brushing. You should actually floss before you brush your teeth, at least once daily.

When you floss your teeth, you dislodge debris and plaque, moving some of this material onto the surface of your teeth. If you do this after brushing, you add plaque to the surface of the teeth you just cleaned. But if you floss first, you then brush away the residue.

Be Honest with Your Dentist and Dental Hygienist about Your Flossing

When you visit your dental clinic, they ask you if you have been flossing your teeth each day. Be honest in your answer, so your dentist can help you find ways to improve your technique or follow-through. They can make recommendations in the type of dental floss you choose, how to make the job easier and available products designed to help you floss better. Always remember that flossing is important and whether you do this as you should is very important to your oral health.