What is flossing?
Flossing is the act of cleaning between one’s teeth with dental floss.
Why should flossing be done?
The American Dental Association recommends cleaning between your teeth once a day. Cleaning between your teeth may help prevent cavities and gum disease. Cleaning between your teeth helps remove a sticky film called plaque. Plaque contains bacteria that feeds on leftover food or sugar in your mouth. When that happens, it releases an acid that can eat away at the outer shell of your teeth and cause cavities.
Plaque that is not removed by brushing and cleaning between your teeth can eventually harden into a rough substance called tartar (or calculus). Tartar collects along your gum line and can lead to gum disease. Once tartar forms, only your dentist can remove it.
What is the Right Way to Floss?
To receive maximum benefits from flossing, use the following proper technique:
- Starting with about 18 inches of floss, wind most of the floss around each middle finger, leaving an inch or two of floss to work with
- Holding the floss tautly between your thumbs and index fingers, slide it gently up-and-down between your teeth
- Gently curve the floss around the base of each tooth, making sure you go beneath the gumline. Never snap or force the floss, as this may cut or bruise delicate gum tissue
- Use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth
- To remove the floss, use the same back-and-forth motion to bring the floss up and away from the teeth
What Type of Floss Should I Use?
There are two types of floss from which to choose:
- Nylon (or multifilament) floss
- PTFE (monofilament) floss
Nylon floss is available waxed and unwaxed, and in a variety of flavors. Because this type of floss is composed of many strands of nylon, it may sometimes tear or shred, especially between teeth with tight contact points. While more expensive, single filament (PTFE) floss slides easily between teeth, even those with tight spaces between teeth, and is virtually shred-resistant. When used properly, both types of floss are excellent at removing plaque and debris.
Disposable flossettes may also be used easily to clean between the teeth. The method of use remains the same as traditional floss, but these are specifically designed to make flossing easy and effective for those finding it difficult to maintain a regular interdental cleaning habit. Importantly, their curved heads to allow easy insertion of floss between teeth and also offer greater control.
Another device, the water flosser, may also be used to clean between teeth. With this device, the user has only to direct the nozzle tip between the teeth and move sequentially from one tooth to the next.