How to Floss

I’ll be honest – before I started working for the dentist, I had never flossed in my entire life. Not even at the dentist. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what floss was. My parents used it occasionally for when they had food stuck in between their teeth. But for me, the little floss container wasn’t part of my oral hygiene routine.

The problem was, I didn’t know how to floss, and I had never been taught how to. This, and the fear of asking someone (because surely, I should have known already) prevented me from flossing for some time. If you are feeling the same right now, don’t worry, you’re not alone!

First Flossing Experience

My very first flossing experience was when I visited one of our practices for a check-up and clean. Originally from Germany, I was used to a 15-minute dental visit once a year where my dentist checked if all my teeth were still there. I remember the tartar cleaning and fluoride treatment but flossing? Flossing wasn’t part of the deal.

For this reason, I was very surprised when our oral health therapist got the white string out and asked me if I would mind if she flossed my teeth. She asked me, “How often do you floss?” Slightly embarrassed – surely, I couldn’t admit that I had never flossed before – I gave her the standard answer, “Ah, now and then!” She told me I should be flossing at least once a day and this kept my mind busy.

When I got home that night, I wasn’t sure where to start. I also wasn’t going to expose myself and ask her at the practice how to floss. I tried my best and started to floss every night from then on. It wasn’t until a little while later I found out from our dentists there is special a technique to flossing.

Read on, to learn how to floss using the appropriate method as recommended by dentists.

interdental brush and flossing pick

Flossing Tools

There are several flossing tools available which can help make your routine easier or more comfortable than traditional floss. They are:

Flossing Picks

Many people don’t like the feeling of wrapping floss around their fingers or putting their fingers into their mouth. Flossing picks are made of plastic and have a piece of floss already attached to it. They hold the floss tightly in place while you easily reach all your teeth.

Water Flosser

If you are happy to invest some money into a long-term flossing tool, a water flosser might be the right choice for you. Instead of using traditional floss, it uses pressure to push water or mouthwash through a small tip. You move this tip along your gumline and stop between the teeth. The water will clean the bacteria deep between teeth and below the gumline.

Air Flosser

The air flosser works in a similar way to a water flosser but uses a Micro-droplet technology which combines bursts of air and water to remove plaque.

Interdental Brushes

Interdental brushes come in different shapes and sizes. The different sizes allow you to access all areas of the mouth. All interdental brushes have fine bristles that gently remove plaque in between your teeth. Your dentist will be able to recommend some interdental brushes for you.

Flossing Before or After Brushing

What do you do first? Brushing of flossing? And what is more efficient to remove plaque? Researchers conducted a two-phase study regarding this topic which was featured in the Journal of Periodontology (JOP).

The aim of the study was to evaluate if brushing first and flossing after or flossing first and brushing afterwards is more efficient in reducing interdental plaque and increasing fluoride retention in the mouth.

The trial was conducted on 25 dental students in two phases. For the first two weeks, all 25 candidates brushed first and then flossed. In the next phase, they did it the other way around. Before and after the students completed their oral hygiene routine, their plaque and fluoride concentrations were measured.

The study showed plaque was reduced significantly more in the floss-brush period than in the brush-floss phase. In addition, the fluoride concentration in interdental plaque was also significantly higher in the phase where participants flossed before they brushed. This means, flossing before brushing is preferable in order to reduce interdental plaque and increase fluoride concentration.

Our Burleigh Waters dentist Dr Danielle Vertesi explains, “Combining flossing and brushing allows for clearance of bacteria from all five surfaces of the teeth, including below the gum line which is an area often missed by patients.

“Flossing first allows any food and bacteria to be loosened by the floss and to be cleared away when brushing. While this is very important, good oral health is best maintained in conjunction with a balanced low-in-sugar diet, regular visits to the dentist and periodontal assessments.”

How To Floss Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Unwind around 30-40cm of floss off the roll and circle one end around your middle finger until there is only about 5cm left. Roll this smaller part up and around your other middle finger. This will allow you to unwind a new part of floss from your finger as you go. Your index fingers and thumbs are left free to help with flossing.

Step 2: Move the floss up and down (not backwards and forwards) gently against the side of your tooth and up to under the little collar of your gum. Repeat the same method to the tooth right next to it.

Step 3: Unwind a bit of untouched floss from your middle finger and move on to the next gap. Clean in between these two teeth and the gum lines.

Step 4: Keep repeating until you have cleaned all your teeth. It should take you around 2 minutes.

If you are not sure how to floss, please ask your dentist. You can also watch the video below to see a demonstration of the proper technique.

How to Floss Video

6 Months Later

After finding out how to floss (I prefer using flossing picks as it makes it very easy), I started properly flossing every night. When I went for my next dental check-up, my Oral Health Therapist finished her examination and looked at me with raised eyebrows. I was waiting for bad news when she asked me, “Did you actually start flossing?” Yes, I did. And she could see it right away.

Flossing has become such an essential part of my oral hygiene routine, I don’t think twice about it. I am sure if you have read this blog post until the end, you will be able to as well!

If you would like to start flossing but want to get advice from a dentist prior, our dentists would be more than happy to help. Contact one of our practices today to book an appointment.