How To Floss

Brushing removes the bacterial plaque from the sides of the teeth, but no brush is able to go between the teeth AND under the gums. Unfortunately this is where most periodontal disease starts, so it is critical to remove plaque from these areas. Flossing is the most important contribution you can make to your own oral health. To learn to floss properly takes time and patience, and most patients feel awkward flossing at first. However, once learned, it is an easy task that you will enjoy because your mouth will feel cleaner than ever before. It is not important when you floss, only that you do it at least once a day. Because it is not necessary to rinse when flossing, many patients find that after learning the technique, they can floss while watching television.

First, break off an 18-inch length of floss (any kind you like). Wrap the floss around your middle fingers, allowing enough room to control the floss with your index fingers and thumbs.


Floss wrapped around middle
fingers leaving 4 - 5 inches
between hands.

Floss crosses over top of
index fingers, which act to
guide floss between teeth.
 

Using index fingers allows easy placement of floss in back
regions of the mouth

Floss may also be used by crossing over an index finger
and opposite thumb.
 


Using thumb and index
finger for flossing
front teeth.

Gently slide the floss between two teeth, allowing it to pass through the contact of the two teeth. Many people think this is the stopping point , but it is only the preliminary step.


Flossing going past the contact
point of the front two teeth. The
gum has not yet been cleaned.

Once the floss "breaks the contact", slide it between the gum and one of the teeth as far as it will go, without causing discomfort. The floss is moved up and down several times, until the plaque is dislodged. When you hear the floss "squeak", the tooth surface is clean. Don't remove the floss, but rather slide the floss against the other tooth, and repeat the procedure. Each time the floss goes between two teeth there are two places that must be flossed: the side of one tooth and the side of the other tooth. These are two separate steps.


Slide the floss under the edge of the gum of one tooth, wrapping around the tooth. Gently move
the floss up and down.

Next guide the floss under the gum of the adjacent tooth, wrapping the floss and
guiding it up and down.
 

Once the floss has cleaned between the two teeth, move to the next contact and repeat the procedure until all the teeth have been flossed, front and back.


Flossing the back of the
canine, pulling the floss
forward to wrap
around the tooth.

Flossing the front of the
adjacent tooth by pushing
the floss backward to wrap
around the tooth.
 

At first it may take 10-15 minutes to complete the mouth, but when you become proficient, flossing should take a total of less than 5 minutes. This is the best investment of time you can make toward your oral health.

See How to Brush.