How to Floss Properly - Dental Hygienist Explains

How to Floss Properly - Dental Hygienist Explains

 Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH
Medical Reviewed
byDr. Aierress Davis DDS
🔬 Evidence Based
How to Floss Properly - Dental Hygienist Explains

When you're not cleaning between your teeth, you are missing 40% of the tooth surface!  Here is a step-by-step guide for flossing the right way!

How to Floss Your Teeth

1) Holding Dental Floss Correctly

Start by getting a long piece of dental floss and wrap it around your thumbs and index fingers  The longer the dental floss, the easier it is to wrap it… shoot for around 18 inches of floss. 

Next, make sure you’re holding the piece of floss string correctly.  Wrap it around your middle fingers and try to leave about 2 inches in between your wrapped-in-floss-middle fingers.  Once your string is wrapped around your middle fingers, what you want to use to direct the floss is both your thumb and index finger.

2) Proper Flossing Motions

Bring the dental floss down between two teeth in a C shape, ensuring it touches under the contact area.

You actually want to be touching your gums, but make sure you’re not popping it straight down into your papilla (the tip of the triangle of gums in between each tooth).  

Be sure to hug each tooth and curve the floss going up and down touching it on each side of the tooth, making sure the floss is going beneath the gum line! The dental floss should actually disappear in the space between the gums and the tooth (the sides of the papilla).

Floss around each tooth thoroughly with a clean section of floss, moving from tooth to tooth.

3) Understand Why You Floss Between Your Teeth

The goal of flossing isn’t to remove food from between your teeth, (although it’s an additional wonderful benefit) but the ultimate goal of flossing is to remove the biofilm pellicle (the stuff that is forming plaque)!  Think about it like you are SCRAPING bacteria off your tooth, not just popping off food that may be stuck.

When you are doing this - don’t be lazy about it.  Laziness is when you’re not hugging the tooth.  Remember you need to actually scrape off the biofilm from the tooth itself… think about it as “hugging each side of each tooth” is the best way. The American Dental Association recommends that you should floss at least once a day.

Also, regular floss is great but fun flavored floss makes it easier to keep with the habit! Try Burst floss

Why Do We Need To Floss?

Whether you’re using traditional string floss, water floss, interdental brushes...etc... it’s important to clean between your teeth daily.  The three major benefits of cleaning between your teeth are:

1. Preventing Cavities and Tooth Decay

"I can't wait to get my cavities filled at the dentist!" ...said no one ever. Flossing is an easy way to help prevent tooth decay and improve your oral health!

2. Preventing Gum Disease

Cleaning between your teeth helps prevent plaque and tartar buildup which can lead to gum disease AKA periodontal disease!  

When periodontal disease is in it's most severe form, the bone that holds your teeth literally gets eaten away by this "bad bacteria" and when your teeth have no bone to hold them ...they can start falling out.  I know this sounds dramatic but it happens!

3. Preventing Heart Disease & Diabetes

There is research showing an oral-systemic link - where periodontal disease contributes to both heart disease and diabetes. I mean, if something as quick and simple as flossing once a day can improve your overall health - of course, you would add it to your routine, right?

Remember - your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body.  Keeping your mouth as clean and healthy as possible, in turn, affects the rest of your body.  

So, you owe it to your body and oral health to take a few minutes each day to clean between your teeth!  

What About Floss Picks?

And if flossing is truly not your thing (big fingers, smallmouth, poor manual dexterity, etc) talk to your dental provider to see if you would benefit from another interdental aid - such as water flossers or interdental brushes.

Don’t get discouraged if it’s taking you some time to get good at it.  I did it wrong my entire undergrad career… and I didn’t get it right until dental hygiene school!

 Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio BS, RDH"Teeth Talk Girl," is a registered dental hygienist. She started her dental health journey on YouTube, educating the public through videos.
Dr. Aierress Davis DDS
Medical Reviewed byDr. Aierress Davis DDSDr. Aierress Davis is a licensed general dentist training for an Advanced Certificate in Periodontics.
Last updated onDecember 5, 2023Here is our process

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