Oral Hygiene 101

How to Floss Your Teeth

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Flossing is your prime defense against periodontal disease.

For many of us, a quick toothbrushing session in the morning and the evening serves as the foundation of our home dental care strategy. However, unless you've got a fetish for fillings, brushing by itself is not enough. 

If you've ever been to the dentist, you've undoubtedly been told that flossing is the prime defense against periodontal disease. It also fights caries and decay. You should floss after each meal or, at the very least, once a day. 

As with brushing, technique is important, so here are some flossing tips:

  • Take an 18- to 24-inch length of floss, and wrap most of it around the index finger of one hand. Next, wrap all but about 4 inches around the index finger of the other hand.
  • Gripping the floss between the thumb and bent forefinger, slowly work the floss between two teeth with a gentle sawing motion. Never snap or force the floss in. As with brushing, start in the same place each time you floss (the rear molars are a good place to begin).
  • Gently scrape the floss around the tooth, going up into the gum line until you meet resistance. Work systematically in a C shape around each tooth.
  • Using your fingers like spools, unwrap a clean section of floss from the hand with unused floss, and spin the used portion onto the other finger. Move on to the next space.
  • Continue all the way around your mouth, using the same technique.

Which Floss Should You Use? Dental floss comes in a large variety of forms, flavors, and colors: There's waxed and unwaxed; thick and thin; mint-flavored and plain; white, clear, green, and blue. There are disposable floss holders and reusable floss threaders (sold in drugstores and supermarkets). There is even a tough Gore-Tex floss that is designed to slip into the tightest spaces without shredding or fraying.  Fortunately, there's no need to start an extensive research project on the most effective type of floss (the differences between brands and types are mostly for show). If you are just being initiated into the wonderful world of flossing, you might like to splurge on a few different kinds of dental floss to see which you like most. Here are a few hints to help you find the right floss:

  • If your teeth are very close together, waxed, thin, or Gore-Tex floss may slide in between them more easily.
  • Flavored flosses introduce a pleasant, distracting taste while you floss. (They're a great incentive for kids.)
  • If you have wide spaces between your teeth, you might try using dental tape -- a wider variety of floss.
  • Floss holders and threaders may make flossing easier for you if you have extensive bridge work or partial dentures. 

Your teeth need lots of care and attention to ensure life-long good oral health. Visit the links below for more information about protecting and caring for your teeth.

  • If you're not vigilant in your oral hygiene, an assortment of afflictions can attack your teeth and gums. Learn more in How Dental Disease Works.
  • Do you wish your teeth had just a bit more sparkle to them? How Tooth Whitening Works takes a look at procedures you can undergo to brighten your pearly whites.
  • When you have an ache in your teeth, getting rid of it is the only thought in your head. In How to Relieve a Tooth Ache, find out how to deal with dental distress.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.