How to Floss Your Teeth Correctly


courtesy American Academy of Periodontology

Yup. You’ve heard it many times before. Brush and floss for a clean and healthy mouth. As a dentist, I personally say it, oh…roughly 30 times a day. And I really do mean it! Brushing and flossing are the most important actions you can take to protect your teeth.

Flossing is particularly important, but often neglected. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, only about 18% of people in the U.S. floss daily and 27% actually lie to their dentist about how often they floss (note: we already know how often you floss!).

Why Floss

While brushing gets the surface of your teeth clean, flossing gets in between your teeth and gums where bits of food get trapped. That rotting food causes bacteria, and bacteria can cause cavities and bad breadth, but the most serious is gum disease.

I’ve talked about the dangers of gum disease before. It’s an inflammatory disorder triggered by bacteria growing in between teeth, causing swollen, painful gums—a sign of infection, which allows that bacteria to enter your blood stream. That bacteria can travel through the body to cause many other problems in an otherwise healthy person. Recent studies suggest links between advanced gum disease and diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and a variety of cancers.

The Right Way to Floss

Key message here: don’t skip flossing. With just a little practice, flossing gets easier and naturally becomes part of your routine. Here’s how to do it right…

First, start with a piece of floss about 18 inches long. Lightly wrap most of the floss around the middle finger of one hand and the rest around the middle finger of the other hand. Begin with the upper right quadrant of your gum line, sliding deep between each tooth and wrapping the floss around so that each gets a nice little hug. Repeat this step for the other side, staying with the upper teeth. Now, move to the lower left quadrant and then to the lower right. Follow flossing with brushing for a full two minutes.

It may only add a minute more to your regular brushing routine, but the result is healthier and stronger gums and teeth.

What Kind of Floss

Floss comes in a variety of options, styles and brands. But don’t over think which floss to choose. Keep it simple. I usually recommend a basic waxed floss. It’s often the least expensive and does what you need it to do: clean your teeth thoroughly and quickly. Ribbon or glide floss is a good option if you have very tight contact between teeth, where wax floss may not hold up well. But this type of floss isn’t as effective since it “glides” over the plaque and doesn’t remove as much bacteria. Similarly, floss picks are pre-threaded floss-holders. They’re convenient, but be careful with this option. Because they’re pre-threaded, these picks can’t wrap around teeth effectively to do a thorough cleaning.

No More Excuses

So, there ya have it. Simple. Fast. Easy. Building flossing into your daily routine promises better oral health, which can lead to better general health.

Need more instruction? Your dentist or hygienist is always happy to show you how to floss in your next dental visit. Just call Pine Lake Family Dentistry today to schedule your next appointment. We look forward to seeing you and your lovely smile.

–Dr. Chen

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