In theory, flossing seems pretty simple. You just take some string and slide it between each tooth, right? Since you’re reading this article, you probably suspect there is a bit more to it than that. Proper flossing technique takes a bit of getting used to but becomes second nature once you learn it. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been flossing for years or are recommitting to a new flossing habit. Taking the time to learn the right way to floss will pay off dividends for your oral health.

What is the correct way to floss?

The first thing you do is measure out about 18 inches of floss. You can use any type of floss you prefer. Many people choose regular unwaxed dental floss or waxed dental floss (or a specially coated glide floss) if the spaces between your teeth are tight. If you have wide spaces between your teeth, dental tape may be a better option. If possible, choose floss that bears the acceptance symbol of the American Dental Association.

To floss, wind each of the ends around the middle finger of each hand until you have about one or two inches left. Hold the floss taut using your thumbs and index fingers and gently slide the floss in between the two teeth in a back and forth motion. Try not to snap the floss down into the gumline, as this can bruise the gums and cause injury. Snapping the floss in between your teeth regularly can cause gum recession and gum disease.

As you reach the top of the tooth, curve the floss at the base to form a C shape. This will help the floss enter the space between the gums and your tooth and remove any bacteria or food particles that have settled underneath the gum tissue. Repeat these steps, moving from one tooth to the next, until all of your teeth have been flossed. Every time you floss around a new tooth, unwind the floss from one hand and wind it onto the other hand to expose a clean section of dental floss. If you don’t use a clean section of floss each time, you risk spreading bacteria to the rest of your teeth.

Always make sure that you are flossing each side of the tooth, using gentle side-to-side pressure to remove plaque. Most people have 28 teeth in their mouth – which means that you should be flossing 56 sides to get your entire mouth. Plaque builds up on both sides of the tooth, and around the gumline, so you want to do your best to remove it from every surface of your teeth.

What’s the best way to floss with braces?

If you wear braces, flossing can be a little tricky but easy with a little practice. Standing in front of a mirror will help you make sure the floss is going where it needs to get the job done.

Take between 18 and 24 inches of floss and gently thread it between your teeth and the main wire. Wrap the ends of the floss around your index fingers and press it between your teeth as gently as possible. Move the floss up and down along the sides of both teeth. It might help to make an upside down “U” with the floss when working on your top teeth by going up one side of the tooth and then gliding the floss down the other side when you get to the gumline.

When you finish flossing all your teeth, remove the floss from your teeth and unthread it from behind the wire. Be careful not to snap the floss out from between your teeth, as this could cause the main wire to become dislodged.

Is it better to floss before or after brushing?

Knowing when to floss your teeth is almost as important as flossing itself. It’s always a good idea to floss your teeth before brushing. When you follow proper flossing technique, you get rid of both food particles and plaque from in between your teeth and along your gum line. When you brush after flossing, it helps wash away all the plaque so it doesn’t sit around, contributing to gum disease and tooth decay.

Things to watch out for

We’ve already mentioned some of the common mistakes people make while flossing, such as snapping the floss and not flossing both sides of each tooth. You also want to make sure that you floss behind the molars located at the very back of your mouth. Even though there is no tooth on the other side, it’s still needs to be flossed. If you are just starting a new flossing habit, there is a good chance that you may see some bleeding in the beginning. Don’t let that stop you! The bleeding is probably from inflammation around your gum line, and continuing to floss will only improve the oral health of your gums.

Proper flossing is essential for oral health

Proper flossing technique and brushing twice per day is the cornerstone of a good oral hygiene routine. It keeps your mouth healthy and makes your twice-yearly dentist visits a breeze.

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