The Basics of Flossing
Good dental health isn’t built on good brushing alone. You need to get into the crevices between your teeth and the pockets along your gum line to clear out trapped food and plaque that can contribute to the growth of disease-causing bacteria and tooth decay. And the tried-and-true method for cleaning out these hard-to-reach spots is with dental floss.
Odds are, you probably aren’t flossing the way that your dentist recommends. Here’s how to get it done right.
Floss every single day. Flossing at least once per day ensures that bacteria and plaque don’t build up in between your teeth.
Don’t worry about the floss type. Waxed or unwaxed, flavored or plain, all flosses will do an excellent job of pulling out food and plaque that are stuck between your teeth. Choose the type that suits your taste.
Wrap it right. There’s more than one way to floss between your teeth. Most people pull off a generous piece, then wrap most of the excess on one finger, and just a bit on the other. Then you can slowly unwind the excess, so you use a fresh length of dental floss for each tooth. If standard floss is hard to use, look for plastic flossing handles that hold a bit of floss between two prongs — they’re especially great for kids who may have a tough time managing regular floss.
Try not to snap the floss into your gum line. A sharp snap can injure your gums and cause bleeding — but it won’t do anything to help you remove the plaque and particles from between your teeth.
Give your gum line a good scrub. The American Dental Association recommends gently wrapping the dental floss in a “C” around the base of a tooth and wiggling it into your gum line. Then start scrubbing up and down the edge of the tooth, in order to help dislodge any food that’s trapped there.
Don’t stop if your gums bleed. It may seem scary when you draw blood as you floss, but that’s just an indicator that the plaque and bacteria you’re attacking have started causing gingivitis. The bleeding will decrease as you improve your oral hygiene.
Don’t rely on mouthwash to take the place of dental floss. Some people may think that antiseptic mouthwashes will kill bacteria and help swish out any trapped food, but the truth is, flossing is essential for removing plaque.
If flossing is too tough, consider another type of inter-dental cleaner. Ask your dentist to recommend a water pick, a stick or a special brush that can help you keep the area between your teeth clean, if flossing isn’t going to work for you.
Check your work. Chew disclosing tablets regularly — they’ll stick to any plaque that’s been left behind, so you can see what you’ve missed during your daily dental care regimen.