Flossing is an essential part of your home dental hygiene routine and helps you keep your teeth clean and your gums healthy. It is easy to fit flossing into your daily routine, and it is necessary to keep the gaps between your teeth free of food and plaque.
The Importance of Flossing
Flossing is important because it allows you to remove plaque, food, and bacteria that you aren’t able to reach with your toothbrush. In fact, according to the Canadian Dental Association, if you don’t floss you are missing more than one-third of your teeth’s surfaces.
Flossing Removes Plaque, Bacteria, and Food Particles
Plaque is a sticky, colourless substance that is made up of a combination of bacteria and sugars from the food we eat. When we eat, it leaves food particles behind on our teeth, which in turn feed the bacteria, which produce plaque. Plaque is acidic, and if it is allowed to remain on our teeth, it damages them. If our teeth sustain too much damage, it may cause a cavity to form.
If you do not remove plaque each day, it can harden into tartar. Tartar, also called calculus, can form both above and below the gumline. Tartar is rough and porous and can cause gum disease. It can only be removed by your dental team using special tools. Removing tartar is a regular part of your dental exam and cleaning. You should have your teeth professionally cleaned at least once every six months.
You can remove plaque on your own by flossing at least once per day, and brushing your teeth at least twice per day for a full two minutes. Ideally, you should brush your teeth after every meal. You should wait between twenty and thirty minutes after eating before brushing your teeth.
Flossing Prevents Gum Disease
When plaque is allowed to remain near our gums, it irritates them, making them red and swollen. This condition is called gingivitis, and if it is allowed to progress to its later stages (a condition called periodontitis), it can lead to tooth loss.
Proper Flossing Technique
When flossing, make sure that you floss between each pair of teeth, and remember to floss below your gum line.
Before You Begin
You will need to switch to a new section of floss after every tooth, so to properly floss you will need a length of floss approximately as long as your arm.
Before you begin flossing you should wrap your floss appropriately. Begin at one end of the piece of floss and wind the majority of the floss snugly around the your middle finger on one hand. You should then secure the loose end of the floss by wrapping it snugly around your other middle finger so that you can maintain a secure grip on the floss while you are using it. You should leave a gap approximately two inches wide between the middle fingers on your two hands. As you use the floss you will switch to a new section after each tooth, so that the used floss will end up in your opposite hand.
While you floss, use your two index fingers to gently guide the floss between your teeth. To do this, you should adjust your index fingers so that there is a section of floss approximately one inch long between your two fingers. Do not wind the floss around your index fingers; they need to remain nimble for you to floss correctly.
How to Floss Your Teeth
- Slide the length of floss between two of your teeth and wrap it around the base of your tooth in a “C” shape, making sure to gently guide it under your gum line.
- Wipe your tooth from base to tip two or three times. After you have finished wiping your tooth should feel smooth.
- Repeat steps one and two for both sides of each tooth. Don’t forget to floss between your back molars, and to wipe the backside of your backmost molars.
- Shift to a new section of floss after each tooth. This will ensure that you aren’t reintroducing plaque to your mouth and helps prevent your floss from fraying, which can irritate your gums.
- Once you have finished flossing you should brush your teeth. It is more effective to floss your teeth before brushing than to floss your teeth after brushing.
If you haven’t been flossing vigilantly before now, you may find that your gums bleed a little bit when you floss. This is perfectly normal and should stop after a few days of flossing. However, if the bleeding does not stop, or are bleeding excessively, you should make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible.