What is the Right Way to Floss?

Although you may already be flossing twice daily as recommended by Dr. Ray Becker of Howard County Smiles in Ellicott City, MD, you may not be doing enough to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Although brushing your teeth is a vital part of your oral hygiene regimen, flossing is just as important. Brushing can only remove the plaque and bacteria that are easiest to reach.

Plaque is a sticky but clear and colorless substance made of food particles and saliva that adheres to your teeth. In plaque, the bacteria finds fertile environment to begin to eat away at your tooth enamel which eventually leads to cavities.

Why Is Flossing So Important?

Flossing can make a huge difference, removing the plaque that your toothbrush can’t easily reach in places like between your teeth. But, it’s important that you make sure you are flossing correctly and effectively. It’s easier to prevent tooth decay and gum disease than cure it. Flossing can help you avoid painful, time-consuming and potentially expensive dental procedures that can become necessary when tooth decay and gum disease are allowed to flourish unchecked between teeth.

How to Floss Correctly

1. Wrap a length of floss about eighteen inches long around your middle fingers then use your thumbs and forefingers to move the floss. You should wind more around one finger than the other so you can unspool fresh floss to use as you clean. Bacteria that has been removed on floss can linger and make you sick if reintroduced later.

2. Push the floss between two teeth and use a gentle “sawing” (back and forth) motion all the way from the top of the teeth down to their base where they erupt from your gums.

3. Wrap the floss around the side of one tooth in a “U” shape then gently slide up and down your tooth. Repeat this several times, making sure to go slightly underneath the gum-line, then repeat on the other side of the tooth.

4. Don’t worry too much if you notice that your gums are bleeding as you floss. A little bleeding is perfectly normal if you haven’t been flossing regularly. This bleeding is because your gums are sensitive and inflamed from the bacteria dwelling there. If you floss daily as recommended by your dentist, you should see an improvement in the health of gums in one to two weeks.

Floss Picks Are Less Effective Than You Think

Some patients prefer to use the floss picks that are widely available at most stores.  These are “Y” shaped pieces of plastic with floss strung between the “arms” of the “Y”. However, dentists prefer their patients use a length of “free” floss and their hands. Floss picks aren’t ideal for proper flossing due to the fact that you cannot wrap them around the base of the tooth in the “U” shape recommended. However, using them is still better than neglecting to floss all together..

Schedule An Appointment With Your Dentist

Dentists generally agree that flossing after you brush as opposed to before is preferable as there will already be less plaque and food particles to get stuck on the floss.  If you have any additional questions about brushing, flossing or your oral health, call 410.415.9013 or schedule an appointment online with Dr. Becker of Howard County Smiles in Ellicott City, MD today.