How to Floss Properly

For years and years, it was believed that brushing your teeth regularly was the only key to oral health. However, as dentist at Ironwood Dental confirms, brushing does not dislodge food particles between your teeth and under the gums.

Food particles stuck in these hard-to-reach places are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria. Left unchecked, this proliferation of bacteria leads to cavities, gum disease and bad breath. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that gum disease or periodontitis can lead to more severe overall health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

Flossing is now considered essential in removing food particles from hard-to-reach places, thereby contributing to the prevention of cavities and gum disease.

What Type of Floss to Use?

There are two main types of floss available at most drugstores:-

Multifilament or Nylon floss: As the name implies, multifilament floss is made up of many strands of nylon woven into a single thread. You get waxed and unwaxed floss and flavoured floss, but unfortunately, nylon floss tends to shred quite easily.

Monofilament or PTFE Floss: Although slightly more expensive, PTFE floss is comprised of only a single filament and is, therefore, more difficult to shred.

The Correct Flossing Technique

  • Start by pulling approximately 18 inches or 45 cm of floss out of the dispenser. Most dispensers come with a little cutting blade imbedded in the case of the dispenser.
  • Roll most of the floss around your two middle fingers, leaving about 4 in or 9 cm exposed.
  • It doesn’t really matter where you start; upper or lower teeth, front or back teeth. Slide the floss gently between your teeth. Make a “c-motion” with the floss around your tooth and GENTLY (to prevent cutting your gums and bleeding) move the floss up and down and backwards and forwards; making sure to penetrate beneath the gum line as far as you can (ideally 2 to 3 mm).
  • Remove the floss from around that tooth and proceed to the next, making sure that you floss all your teeth one tooth at a time. Make sure you use a clean piece of exposed floss for each tooth by unwinding floss from the one middle finger to the other.
  • Be sure to floss the back molars adequately as these inaccessible areas are prime breeding spots for bacteria. A floss pick (with pre-dispensed floss in place) might be ideal for those back molars.
  • Once you have finished flossing use a mouthwash, or brush your teeth, to remove any stray particles of food left in your mouth, and to allow the fluoride to penetrate deep into the areas you have just cleaned.
  • Ideally, you should floss at least once a day, and it is recommended that this is done just before going to bed. There is less saliva production (to wash away bacteria) while you’re asleep, so it is advisable to have as clean a mouth as possible before entering this saliva-deprived sleep period.

There is no doubt that regular flossing is essential for the maintenance of adequate oral health. Although it can seem a bit irritating and time-consuming to begin with; the overall benefits to your oral wellbeing far outweigh the hassle, and the more you get into the habit, the quicker and easier flossing becomes.

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