How To Use Dental Floss For Proper Oral Care

By Matthew Cenzon. May 7th 2016

One of the biggest problems people face for everyday oral care is not knowing how to properly use dental floss for their teeth. Flossing is a major factor for preventing numerous health conditions like tooth decay, bleeding gums, also known as gingivitis, and can even help with heart disease by keeping bacteria in the mouth from entering the blood stream. Read further for an informative guide on how to use dental floss to take proper care of your mouth and everything inside of it.

How to Use Dental Floss

  1. Begin with about 18 inches of dental floss. Wind most of the floss on one middle or index finger, whichever feels most comfortable.
  2. Wrap a small portion of the other end of the dental floss around the middle or index finger of the opposite hand.
  3. Grip or pinch the dental floss between each of your thumbs and index fingers.
  4. Pull the floss to make it rigid, but be careful not to pull so hard it snaps into two strands.
  5. Holding the floss firmly, insert the floss between your two front teeth.
  6. Slide the floss back-and-forth, then up-and-down, scraping away any debris between the teeth.
  7. Move the floss towards the gums and slip it over the teeth, just under the gumline, sliding it back-and-forth, up-and-down. This may hurt or cause bleeding, so it is important to be thorough but gentle when flossing around the gums. As you begin to floss regularly, the bleeding should lessen and eventually stop.
  8. Make sure you floss under the gums for both sides. When finished, move to the lower front teeth and repeat the aforementioned steps.
  9. Repeat these steps for the upper and lower front teeth, then make your way towards the teeth in the rear.
  10. It may be difficult to see or reach the teeth furthest in the back, so loosen the slack on the dental floss until you've hooked the dental floss between the back teeth you're cleaning.
  11. Continue flossing all around your mouth until if you've flossed between all of your teeth.

Choosing the Right Dental Floss

There are various types of dental floss on the market, and choosing the right one is important to proper flossing. Dental floss can come in various colors and in various flavors, like mint. Certain brands can come either waxed or unwaxed, and the thickness of the dental floss can also vary. Try using different brands and variations to see what you feel the most comfortable using. Here are a few tips to help you make your decision:

  • Flavored dental floss may make flossing more enjoyable and can help prevent bad breath.
  • Waxed floss might move easier between your teeth, but can be harder to keep a hold of.
  • Thin floss can be useful if there isn't much room between your teeth, but thicker dental floss can cover more areas.
  • Colored dental floss can make it easier to see the debris you are removing from between your teeth (this can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the person).

Dental Floss Tools

Several dental tools are now available for the home market that makes flossing much easier than using traditional dental floss. Many of these tools make flossing more convenient, safe and faster. Flossing the back teeth is also much easier with some of these handheld devices.

  • Floss holders: useful for those who have a hard time hanging on to their dental floss.
  • Water pik: a dental device that uses a thin stream of water to clean between teeth and around the gumline. Also referred to as a "water pick," or "water pic."
  • Dental flossers: similar to a floss holder, these devices are meant to hold dental floss in place. Some come with their own attachment of dental floss and are great for flossing teeth in the back of your mouth. Some flossers are even battery powered, like an electric toothbrush, and can help massage around the gums while flossing.
  • Dental picks: these are basically like the dental picks used by your dentist to clean your teeth. While they can be an effective alternative to dental floss, they are more dangerous and can hurt more than using traditional floss.

Flossing with Braces

One of the most difficult tasks involving dental floss is flossing around braces. Most dentists or orthodontists will give patients a special tool called a floss threader. Those with braces can hook their floss through the threader, which can be inserted around, underneath or in between braces for flossing. Another alternative would be to look for dental floss that comes with stiff ends that can be inserted between braces as well.


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