Of all the oral hygiene habits, flossing can be the most intimidating. We all know we’re supposed to do it once a day, but it can be easy to skip because you’re just not sure if you’re doing it right, or the string seems like a hassle. If you’re the parent of a child that you’re trying to teach to floss, it can seem easy to just wait until they’re older to start the habit.
This helpful guide will show you how to floss properly and give you an understanding of just why flossing is so important. You can also learn more about flossing with braces and how to use flossers and other flossing tools.
Why Is Flossing Important?
Along with brushing, flossing is one of the most effective ways to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. These problems occur due to the buildup of plaque that is caused by bacteria giving off acid as a byproduct of feeding. These bacteria eat sugar, starch, and other food particles that stick to the enamel of your teeth.
While brushing helps to get the food particles and plaque off the surface of the teeth, flossing is able to remove them from the hard to reach areas between the teeth. Additionally, flossing helps stimulate the gums, helping to maintain a healthy gum line and prevent gum disease.
How to Floss Properly in 5 Steps
Flossing is easier than you may think, and the best time to start your flossing habit is today. If you’re a parent, it’s never too early to teach good flossing techniques and habits to your children.
According to the American Dental Association, here are the steps for proper flossing:
- Take about 18 inches of floss and wind a big portion of it around your middle finger and do the same for the opposite hand, which will take up the floss as you use it.
- Pinch a section of it tightly between your thumb and index fingers.
- Using a gentle back-and-forth motion, carefully move the floss between the teeth up toward the gumline.
- When you reach the gums, gently and carefully slide the floss up in a C-shape against the tooth.
- While holding the floss against the tooth, carefully pull down the side of the tooth, going up and down both teeth in each gap.
Repeat these steps for every tooth, including the back side of your top and bottom molars. People with particularly tight teeth should use waxed dental floss.
When Should You Floss?
Dentists recommend flossing once a day. This can be done either in the morning or before bed, whichever is best for your individual preferences or routine.
If you rinse, make sure to do it after you floss, but before you brush. If you don’t rinse, or rinse at a separate time, you can floss before or after you brush.
Babies should begin flossing as soon as they have two teeth next to each other. Although they will not be able to floss themselves, doing it for them as a parent will help establish this as normal and encourage healthy baby teeth.
Flossing with Braces — Is It Different?
People with braces can and should floss, but it requires a little more technique and care. Flossing keeps your teeth and braces clean and can help your orthodontic checkups go smoother.
Your orthodontist can tell you about special orthodontic threaders or orthodontic floss that makes it easier to carefully guide the floss between the wires so you can get between your teeth.
Flossers and Other Flossing Devices
For some, flossing with traditional floss never becomes second nature no matter how hard you try. This is where alternatives, including flossers and water flossers, can be very handy.
Plastic flossers are an easy to hold plastic handle that holds a very small piece of floss that some can more easily use to floss all of their teeth. Flossers are a particularly attractive option for children just learning to floss who want to learn the basics of flossing.
Water flossers, often called by the brand name Waterpiks, are electronic devices that pump a focused stream of water into the mouth. Water flossers are a great alternative for people with sensitive gums, people who have just undergone mouth surgery, and people with braces. These devices enable you to clean out those hard to reach areas without the pressure and friction of dental floss.
Flossing as Part of a Larger Oral Hygiene Plan
To keep your teeth and gums healthy, dentists recommend brushing twice a day, and flossing once a day. Additionally, adults and children alike should limit sugary snacks and beverages as much as possible to give those bacteria less food to feed on.
In addition to daily hygiene, regular dentist appointments are key to lasting oral health. With examinations, X-rays, and hygiene treatments, your dentist and hygienist can help you prevent tooth decay and gum disease, while staying ahead of early signs of cavities and gingivitis.
To supplement flossing and brushing, your dentist can recommend preventative treatments like fluoride varnish and dental sealants.
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry
Going to the dentist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists make the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!