How to Floss Correctly: The Do’s & Don’ts

Floss Like a Pro: The Dos and Don'ts to Help You

If you cringe a little when the dental hygienist asks about your flossing habits, you’re not alone. A national teeth flossing survey by the Centers for Disease Control found only 30 percent of people floss daily, while 32 percent said they never do.

For some, it often feels like one more tedious task to add to our already-hectic daily lives. But it isn’t an optional oral health activity. It’s a vital one. Proper brushing and flossing helps reach the spaces your toothbrush can’t get to removing bacteria that can cause plaque buildup.

When you don’t know how to floss correctly, it can lead to tartar, gum recession and periodontal disease, and tooth decay. By removing plaque and excess food particles your toothbrush can’t reach, you’re achieving a brighter, whiter smile. The more you get in the habit of daily dental practice, the more it becomes intuitive, as automatic as brushing your teeth. Here are some dos and don’ts:

DON’T be tempted to skip.

The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice a day and properly flossing once daily to ensure plaque and bacteria are removed from between the teeth and away from the gum line.

DO put your focus on getting into the habit of flossing, not when you floss.

Find a time of day that you’re most likely to consistently stick to this important oral hygiene practice. Some people like to floss after the last meal of the day and right before bedtime, while others choose to get it done as part of their morning wake-up routine.

DON’T get discouraged if flossing hurts at first.

Starting a dental hygiene habit is a little like working out when you haven’t done it for a while – you may experience some soreness at first, but eventually your muscles get used to regular exercise. Likewise, if you’ve just started flossing or do it infrequently, you may experience some bleeding and pain. Your gums will toughen up and get used to this good oral practice quickly – don’t let early bleeding/pain stop you from your new habit.

DO talk to your dentist if you notice severe bleeding when you floss.

It could be a sign of gum disease, which nearly half of people 30 or older suffer from according to the Centers for Disease Control.

DON’T try just one kind of floss.

Find a dental floss that works well for your mouth and teeth configuration. You may need thinner, waxed, or glide floss for tightly packed teeth – or dental tape if you have bigger gaps between your teeth. Floss picks are great for when you’re on the go or for teaching kids how to floss. If you have implants and bridges, waterpiks are a good option, but overall, regular types of floss are your best bet for accessing those harder to reach areas of your mouth.

DO pay attention to which order you do things if you’re not yet a loyal flosser!

For example, you may prefer brushing your pearly whites first, but doing so may also may tempt you to skip flossing if you’re short on time and your teeth already feel clean.

DON’T let the day slip away without flossing.

Set an alarm reminder on your phone or a recurring “appointment” on your calendar to floss. Or go old-fashioned and put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror.

DO learn how to floss properly.

Here’s what Mouth Healthy recommends in their step by step guide for flossing correctly:

  • Twist about 18-inches of floss around the tip of the middle finger on your non-dominant hand and the dominant one – then slide the floss between your thumb and forefinger on either side.
  • Hold the floss and pull the piece of floss up between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion.
  • At the gum line, pull into a C shape around the tooth and gently follow the gum line up and around toward the root.
  • As the last step, gently rub the tooth with the floss as you move away from the gum-line and onto the next tooth.

DON’T be caught floss-less!

If you’ve got floss or floss picks available in your bathroom, desk drawers, and glove compartment, you’re much less likely to skip it. Just be sure to keep it classy, always flossing with discretion!

Questions about your oral health? Your team at CNS Dental is always here to help—be sure to talk to us at your next visit!