How to Floss: Understanding the Proper Technique

By Natalie Bradley in Healthy Feeling

Flossing isn't just a trending dance move. It's an important part of your oral hygiene routine—and one that's often overlooked. In fact, one study found that 32 percent of adults reported not flossing within the past week. Understanding how to floss and using a proper flossing technique is key to removing hard-to-reach plaque without damaging your gums. So, read on to discover how flossing can support your dental health and how exactly to go about it for a fresh, healthy smile.

Why Flossing Is Important

Brushing alone only reaches 60 percent of your teeth's surfaces, where plaque (the bacteria that forms on your teeth) accumulates. Over time, plaque buildup can cause issues such as dental decay, also known as cavities, and gum disease. Flossing reaches all those additional nooks and crannies that your toothbrush can't get to.

Flossing not only keeps your mouth healthy—it keeps your breath fresher, too. What's not to love?

A woman smiles into an antique mirror.

Benefits of Flossing

Here are some of the ways that flossing can contribute to your oral health:

  • Helps remove food particles and plaque between teeth and along the gums
  • Leads to fresher breath by reducing odor-causing bacteria
  • Reduces the risk of cavities
  • Supports gum health, including minimizing sore, bleeding, or inflamed gums
  • Helps prevent gingivitis, which can lead to periodontitis (gum disease)

Types of Floss

Traditional dental floss is a thin, soft thread designed to slide between your teeth. Floss comes in different widths, from thread floss to thicker dental tape. Floss also comes in various flavors and may have special coatings to suit a range of needs and preferences. For example, some flosses are coated in wax to reduce fraying and snapping, such as Tom's of Maine Antiplaque Floss. Choose a floss that's comfortable to hold and that doesn't get stuck or break between your teeth.

Other tools include water flossers and handheld flossers. These can be helpful for people who struggle with the dexterity needed to use traditional floss.

How to Floss Properly

Using a proper flossing technique to clean between your teeth is crucial to effectively remove plaque without harming your gums. Try this step-by-step guide for flossing success:

a man

  1. Break off a length of floss (around 18 inches) and wind either end around a finger on each hand.
  2. Hold a 1- to 2-inch section of floss taut between your thumbs and forefingers.
  3. Gently slide the floss between your teeth. (If you hit resistance, don't force it. You might snap it into your gums and cause damage.)
  4. Once the floss is between your teeth, slowly move it toward your gum line and gently guide the floss into a C-shape along your gums.
  5. Gently scrape the floss away from the gum line against one side of the tooth. Repeat on the other side.

Taking Your Dental Hygiene to the Next Level

Pro tip: Be systematic. Establish a flossing routine, such as working from left to right along the top set of teeth before moving to the bottom set. This will help make sure you don't miss any teeth. If you're ever unsure whether you're flossing effectively, ask your dentist for support at your next routine cleaning. They can help you perfect your technique.

Feeling inspired to level up your dental hygiene routine? Check out some of the most creative, fresh, and downright odd toothpaste flavors out there. You brush at least twice a day, so why not spice it up?

Image Sources: Shutterstock | Pexels

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Why It's Good

Brushing your teeth is the first step to good oral health, but flossing is also an essential tool to optimize dental health and hygiene and prevent issues like gum disease.