What is flossing?

Flossing removes bacteria and other debris that can’t be reached by a toothbrush. It consists of a very thin piece of synthetic cord that’s inserted between the teeth and you move it up and down between the sides of two adjoining teeth.

Why is flossing important?

Most dentists concur that flossing is your best weapon against plaque. Done daily, it’s an excellent and proven method for complementing brushing. Flossing also helps prevent cavities, periodontal disease, as well as other dental problems later in life. It’s also a great way to increase blood circulation in your gums. It gets rid of plaque and debris that sticks to your teeth and gums.

How often to floss

You should floss at least once a day. Flossing should take about three minutes and you can do it while engaging in another activity, like watching television. However, don’t floss your teeth while operating a motor vehicle or any other kind of  machinery.

Flossing techniques

The two methods for flossing are the "spool method" and "loop method.” 

If you don’t have problems with stiff joints or fingers, try the spool method. It works like this: Break off about 18 inches of floss. Wind most of it around the middle finger. Then wind the remaining floss around the middle finger of the opposite hand. It will take up the floss as it becomes soiled or frayed. Floss up and down between your teeth with your index fingers and thumbs. Do it several several times forming a "C" shape around the tooth. Try to go below the gum line, where bacteria can heavily collect.

Have dexterity issues? Try the loop method. It works well for children or adults. This is how it works: Break off 18 inches of floss and shape it into a circle. Then tie it securely using two or three knots. Place all of your fingers, not the thumb, inside the loop. Use your index fingers to guide the floss through your lower teeth, and use your thumbs to guide the floss through the upper teeth, going below the gum line and forming a "C" on the side of the tooth.

Whichever flossing method suits you, never "snap" the floss. This can cut your gums. Be sure to gently scrape the side of each tooth with the floss.

Your gums might be tender or bleed during the first few days following flossing. This condition usually heals within a few days.