Flossing is an important oral hygiene habit. It cleans and dislodges food stuck between your teeth, which reduces the amount of bacteria and plaque in your mouth. Plaque is a sticky film that builds up on teeth and contributes to cavities and gum disease.
Although many people brush their teeth daily, not everyone flosses their teeth as regularly as they brush. According to a national poll, about 4 in 10 Americans floss their teeth at least once a day, and 20 percent of Americans never floss at all.
Of course, it isn’t enough to simply floss. It’s important to floss correctly. Improper flossing can potentially damage your teeth and gums. So, if you’re unsure about the right way to clean in between your teeth, here’s a step-by-step guide on the best way to floss.
In this post, we’ll also consider how often should you floss and does flossing create gaps in teeth.
How A Dental Floss Works
Regular flossing plays a crucial role in your dental hygiene. When you skip flossing, plaque can build up between your teeth and along your gumline. This may eventually make you more susceptible to gum disease and tooth decay.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), interdental cleaners such as floss play a vital role in removing plaque and debris from areas that a toothbrush can’t reach.
What advantages does flossing have?
Digging out a lingering piece of popcorn or removing some leftover spinach from between your teeth feels really good.
Yet flossing has many other advantages in addition to improving the appearance and comfort of your teeth and gums. Let’s examine these advantages in greater detail.
1. Gets rid of plaque
Plaque is a colorless sticky film that collects around and between your teeth and along your gumline. Although it’s difficult to see, plaque isn’t something you want lingering in your mouth for very long.
Plaque forms on and around your teeth when bacteria in your mouth mix with starchy or sugary foods and drinks. These bacteria release acids that break down carbohydrates. If you don’t brush your teeth, the bacteria, acids, and carbohydrates can mix together to form a film of plaque on and around your teeth and gumline.
The bacteria in plaque can release acids that attack your tooth enamel. If these acids aren’t removed with brushing and flossing, it can, over time, lead to cavities.
What’s more, a buildup of plaque can harden and turn into tartar, which collects along your gumline. When this happens, you increase the risk of developing gum disease, according to the ADA.
Regular flossing can help remove food particles from around your teeth, as well as plaque that’s built up between your teeth.
2. Reduces the risk of cavities
Tooth decay can result in a cavity, which causes a tiny opening or hole in the hard surface of your teeth known as enamel.
Even while this procedure takes time, your chance of getting a cavity increases the more plaque you have on your teeth’s enamel.
By removing plaque accumulation and food fragments that are hidden between your teeth on a daily basis, flossing can help prevent tooth decay.
3. Helps prevent gum disease
Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease. One of the first signs of gingivitis is inflammation around your gums. Your gums may also bleed when you brush or floss your teeth.
If gingivitis isn’t treated, it can lead to a more serious infection known as periodontitis. This can cause your gums to recede or pull away from your teeth. Your teeth may lose bone support and become loose. If not treated, periodontitis can cause an inflammatory response throughout your body.
Gum disease can be lessened by brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day. Your dentist should do professional cleanings every six months to maintain the health of your gums.
4. Reduces bad breath
Bad breath (halitosis) is a common problem.
When food gets trapped between your teeth, it slowly starts to decay. If you don’t remove the food particles, it can cause you to have foul-smelling breath.
Moreover, cavities and gum disease, which contribute to foul breath, can be brought on by plaque buildup around or between your teeth, which begins to erode your tooth enamel.
5. May help your heart health
Good dental hygiene doesn’t only benefit your teeth and gums. It may benefit your heart health, too.
According to a large 2019 study, participants who adhered to a high standard of oral hygiene had a decreased risk of atrial fibrillation and heart failure.
That said, the American Heart AssociationTrusted Source says a connection between oral health and heart health may have more to do with a link between the health of your mouth and the overall health of your body.
How Many Times Use Dental Floss
The ADA recommends brushing your teeth for 2 minutes twice a day and flossing at least once a day. Some people prefer to floss during their morning routine, while others like one final cleaning before bed.
It’s generally recommended that you floss your teeth before brushing them. When you floss, you typically loosen food particles and plaque around your teeth. The brushing action then helps to remove the plaque and particles that you’ve removed from your teeth and gum line.
Types of floss
Standard dental floss generally comes in two varieties: waxed and unwaxed. Choosing between the two often comes down to personal preference, especially since the ADA claims there’s no difference between the effectiveness of the two types. If your teeth are closer together or crowded, a wax coating may make it easier to get into those tight spaces.
Floss also comes in tape form, which is broader and flat and works well if you have gaps in your teeth.
Additionally, if you have braces, bridges, or gaps, you may want to try a super floss. This type of floss has a regular floss thread, spongy floss, and a dental floss threader with a stiff end.
If you find traditional floss hard to use, there are some floss alternatives you can try, such as:
- water flossers
- air flossers
- interdental brushes
These tools allow you to use water, air, or small brushes that are similar to a mascara wand, to clean the sides and between your teeth.
According to the ADA, these are all acceptable tools for removing food and debris from your teeth.
What else is important for good dental health?
A healthy oral hygiene practice includes more steps than just flossing your teeth at least once every day. You should also take the following factors into account for the best dental health:
Use a gently circular motion when brushing your teeth at least twice daily.
Use fluoride-containing toothpaste.
To protect your gums, brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
To get rid of microorganisms, don’t forget to brush your tongue.
Use a fluoride-containing mouthwash, if possible.
Every three to four months, switch out your toothbrush or toothbrush head.
To assist remove any sugar or food particles on your teeth and gums after eating or consuming a sweet beverage, drink a glass of water right away.
Limit your intake of sugary meals and beverages and eat a well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
Go to the dentist twice a year for regular cleanings and examinations.
What’s The Best Way To Floss Your Teeth?
Follow this step-by-step guide to floss your teeth correctly.
- Break off about 18 to 24 inches of dental floss. To hold the floss correctly, wind most of the floss around both of your middle fingers. Leave only about 1 to 2 inches of floss for your teeth.
- Next, hold the floss taut with your thumbs and index fingers.
- Place the dental floss in between two teeth. Gently glide the floss up and down, rubbing it against both sides of each tooth. Don’t glide the floss into your gums. This can scratch or bruise your gums.
- As the floss reaches your gums, curve the floss at the base of the tooth to form a C shape. This allows the floss to enter the space between your gums and your tooth.
- Repeat the steps as you move from tooth to tooth. With each tooth, use a new, clean section of floss.
What’s the best way to floss with braces?
Flossing with braces can be tricky, and it takes more time than flossing without braces. If you use regular floss, give yourself 10 to 15 minutes to floss your teeth.
With this method, choose waxed floss, which is less likely to tear and get stuck in your braces.
Flossing instructions for braces
Waxed dental floss should be broken off at about 18 to 24 inches.
To ensure that the floss is going in the right place, stand in front of a mirror.
Starting between your teeth and the main wire, thread the floss through. To make moving the floss around easier, wrap the loose ends around your index fingers.
As gently as you can, press the floss in between the two teeth. After that, run the floss up and down the sides of each tooth.
Make an upside-down U with the floss when cleaning the top teeth. Go along the side of one tooth until you reach the gumline to do this. The other tooth should then be flossed from side to side.
From behind the wire, gently pry the floss out and delicately unthread it. Don’t force the floss out of your teeth since you can knock a wire loose.
Continue using this method on the following two teeth until you have flossed between all of your teeth.
Instead of using waxed floss, other options that work well for flossing if you have braces include using a Waterpik, a type of water flosser, or a floss threader, a small tool that helps you thread floss under your braces. Both can save you time with flossing.
When should you floss?
Knowing the right time to floss also contributes to good oral health. Some people have a routine of brushing their teeth first and then flossing. However, it’s generally recommended to floss and then brush your teeth.
Flossing helps lift and release food and plaque stuck in between your teeth, while brushing removes these particles from your mouth. If you brush first and floss afterward, food and plaque remains in your mouth until the next time you brush.
How Often Should You Floss
The American Dental Association advises brushing twice day and using floss at least once a day.
To prevent plaque build-up and gum disease, you need to floss daily, at least once a day. If you were rushing to brush your teeth after an earlier meal, flossing during your next brush allows you to remove the hard-to-reach plaque, bacteria and food particles.
Does Flossing Create Gaps In Teeth
Gaps between your teeth are indicators of gingivitis or problems with your gums. There are various reasons why you may develop gaps between your teeth. One of the reasons is improper flossing. However, so long as you floss correctly, flossing will likely not cause gaps.
How To Floss Teeth Without Floss
Interdental Brushes: Like tiny toothbrushes, specially designed to clean between your teeth, these brushes are a great alternative to flossing. Interdental brushes are usually easier to use than a thread of floss, are just as effective as floss, and are probably your best option if you have braces.
The bottom line
Flossing your teeth regularly is a vital part of your dental health routine. In addition to removing food and debris from between your teeth, regular flossing has several other important benefits.
By removing food particles and preventing plaque from building up, flossing each day may reduce your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Flossing can also prevent food from decaying between your teeth which, in turn, may help prevent bad breath. Some evidence also suggests that regular brushing and flossing may reduce your risk of heart issues.