Chairside Talk

Flossing 101, Tips and Tricks

Making Your Dental Life Easier

Day after day I get the same excuses for not flossing. “My fingers are too big”, “I forget”, “My fingers are too small”, “I’m on a liquid diet”, “I’m too tired”, “It hurts my gums”, “My dog ate my floss”. Sound familiar? The bottom line is, if dental and health professionals didn’t think flossing was important; we would stop asking you to do it.

Flossing not only removes food particles but it also and more importantly removes the harmful bacteria and plaque that cause dental disease. Bacteria is the #1 reason people get cavities, have bleeding gums and lose their teeth. And if that isn’t bad enough, bacteria affects our heart health and other life threatening conditions.

Even with all the excuses in the world, I’ve found patients are more likely to floss when they understand how to do it correctly. By flossing correctly, bacteria is reduced and our health improves.

Below is a quick tutorial on becoming an efficient flosser. If we commit to the action of flossing daily for about a month, the habit will be created and NOT flossing will feel wrong and gross.

  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Flossing should be done before brushing so the plaque dislodged can be brushed away.
  • I like to floss before night time brushing to remove food debris from the day.
  • A piece of floss appropriate for flossing should be approximately the length between your wrist and elbow.
  • Roll the floss on your middle finger freeing up your index and thumb. The middle finger is longer and can reach farther back. This may take some getting used to.
  • I usually have an inch or two of floss rolled out between hands and I use the thumb and index finger for stability and control.
  • After sliding the floss between teeth, I push and pull the floss against each side of the tooth moving up and down. I do this five times on each side. You are rubbing the plaque away along the length of the tooth from the edge down past the gums until it stops.
  • Bleeding gums is a clear indicator that bacteria is infecting that site and flossing there is crucial. You will not cause further damage, only help it to heal.
  • Throw away your floss after use.
Flossing is beneficial because:
  • It removes harmful plaque the toothbrush can’t access
  • It removes food and particles
  • It lessens the occurrence of infection
  • It keeps gums healthier and less tender
  • It makes dental cleanings less painful and easier
  • Your dental hygienist will love you
  • Gums won’t bleed or bleed less
  • It helps prevent cavities between the teeth
  • It helps with better breath
  • It improves overall health

Dental professions do realize some people can’t floss due to arthritis or other functional and/or coordination problems. Let them know and together create a plan that will work better for you. Here is a list of devices, suggestions or other interdental aids that won’t replace the benefits of flossing but will be better than doing nothing.

  • Floss holder
  • Rubber tip
  • Interdental pics (Soft-Picks®)
  • Interdental brushes (Proxabrush®)
  • Antimicrobial mouthrinse (Crest Pro-Health®, Listerine® or Chlorhexidine (prescription only))
  • Seeing the dental hygienist more often

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