Why flossing is important
Most people know that they should floss once a day, but not everyone knows why. Brushing your teeth does an excellent job of removing plaque from tooth surfaces, but brushing alone isn’t enough to keep tooth decay and gum disease at bay. With a proper flossing regimen, you can remove left over food particles and plaque from the places a toothbrush cannot easily reach – think the spaces between your teeth and under the gum line. So, as a general rule of thumb, dentists recommend that you floss at least once per day.
How to floss properly: a step-by-step guide
Here is a step by step guide to proper flossing. Of course, if you have any questions, you can always speak with your dentist or hygienist who will be happy to demo for you.
What type of floss to use
There are several types of dental floss on the market that can all get the job done if used correctly and regularly. Pick one that you like, one that suits your mouth condition, and the type you find easiest to use. The best floss or interdental cleaner is the one you will use daily. Let’s look at the various options:
Nylon (multifilament) floss: Nylon flosses are composed of many strands of nylon fibers that help remove plaque from your teeth. This product is available both waxed and unwaxed. Unwaxed is thinner and easier to grip. Waxed may help the floss slide through the tooth easier and comes in different flavors like mint or cinnamon.
Monofilament floss: This floss is a single strand polytetrafluorethylene (PFTE) fiber, the same material that’s used in high-tech Gore-Tex fabric and non-stick coatings. This type of floss is more expensive than multifilament nylon floss. It is available in different flavors and can also be wax coated.
Dental tape: A multistrand nylon that is thicker and flatter than regular floss. Comes waxed and unwaxed and in multiple flavors.
Super floss: This is a pre-cut floss that comes in individual pieces. It has 3 distinct segments, a stiff end that can be threaded under bridge work and around braces and implants, a regular floss segment for under the gums, and a puffy, spongy section for wide spaces and under dental appliances.
Electric flossers: There are two main types of electric flossers - water flossers (oral irrigators) and air flossers. Both types use a stream of water directed through a small specialized tip to blast away debris and plaque from between the teeth. An air flosser is also an oral irrigator but carries the tiny water droplets on a jet of air.
Interdental brushes: These tiny finger-held brushes are shaped like little trees and can be used to clean between the teeth and under the gumline. Studies show these perform very well and can be better than floss at removing plaque from between the teeth.1
Flossing devices: For those that have a difficult time holding the floss between their fingers, various devices are available to make the job easier. These usually allow for one-hand operation:
While proper daily brushing habits are extremely important, flossing is a major piece of achieving optimal oral health. This is because flossing and other cleaning aids work between the teeth to break up plaque colonies which toothbrushing alone cannot accomplish.
People often ask how frequently they should be flossing. While most dentists or hygienist will say once a day, the important thing is to get into a regular habit of flossing, as it plays a critical role in optimizing gingival health and preventing oral disease. If you have any questions about the above steps or the right kind of floss for you, we recommend talking to your dentist or dental hygienist who would be happy to help.
Looking for more information? Learn more about general oral health:
1Worthington, H. V., MacDonald, L., Poklepovic Pericic, T., Sambunjak, D., Johnson, T. M., Imai, P., & Clarkson, J. E. (2019, April 10). Home use of interdental cleaning devices, in addition to toothbrushing, for preventing and controlling periodontal diseases and dental caries. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30968949
2Ng, E., & Lim, L. P. (2019, June 1). An Overview of Different Interdental Cleaning Aids and Their Effectiveness. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6630384/