Floss comes in a variety of materials and colors, but essentially,
it is a very thin cord you hold between fingers of each hand
and insert between adjoining teeth. The cord, or floss, helps
loosen debris by gently moving it up and down and back and
forth between the teeth.
Flossing is a proven method for loosening debris from hard-to-reach
surfaces of your teeth and gum lines. Next to brushing, flossing
is a highly effective method for removing plaque on tooth
surfaces your brush can't reach very well.
Another benefit of flossing is increasing blood circulation
in your gums. Gum stimulation is a necessary means of keeping
your gum tissues healthy; strong gums are the foundation
of your teeth.
How Often To Floss
Our office recommends that you practice flossing once a day.
Many people find that flossing at night is an easy bedtime
routine; moreover, night time flossing helps to protect your
teeth during sleep, when harmful plaque can do a lot of damage.
Types of Floss
Dental floss comes in a variety of materials, colors, and
even flavors. Waxed varieties are slipperier, allowing people
with extremely tight spaces between their teeth to floss
more easily. Popular flavors of floss include wintergreen
and cinnamon. Waxed floss does tend to fray more than unwaxed
A type of material called wide floss can be effective for
people with large spaces between their teeth, or for people
with delicate bridge work.
One effective way is to break off about a foot of floss.
Wrap one end of the floss a few times around the middle finger
of each hand. You can use your forefinger and thumbs to maneuver
the floss inside your mouth.
Press the floss in between two teeth and gently press downward
(or upward if doing an upper set of teeth). Next, glide the
floss up and down a few times against the surfaces of both
teeth, carefully doing so and below the gum line as well.
Repeat this procedure for each tooth, taking up the slack
when floss becomes worn or frayed.
Don't be alarmed if your gums slightly bleed the first time
you floss. This is normal and will cease when your gums become
used to flossing.
For Those with Special Needs
Those who have hard time holding on to a piece of floss
or a toothbrush can try supplementing the toothbrush handle
with a rubber handle grip or ball, or even lengthening the
handle with a stick or piece of plastic.
Floss can also be tied into a tiny loop on either side,
making it easier to grasp and control the floss with your
There are several alternatives to flossing for those who
find it too difficult, too painful (sensitive gums or gum
disease) or ineffective (those people with braces or delicate
bridge work). But remember one thing: never use a toothpick
as a substitute for flossing. Toothpicks can tear delicate
gum tissue and may damage existing dental restorations.
One popular flossing alternative is called a water pick,
Water picks use powerful tiny bursts of water to blast away
food particles and other debris in hard-to-reach areas of
your mouth. Dentists use professional-grade water picks when
preparing a tooth for restoration, or in general cleaning
People with painful gum disease or highly sensitive gums
may find water picks useful for supplementing their brushing
regimen. And people with orthodontic, including braces, have
found water picks quite useful because toothbrush bristles
often get stuck.
Antibacterial rinses (over-the-counter and by prescription)
are somewhat effective.