It's the question every dentist asks: "Do you floss daily?" If you respond "No," get ready for a lecture. Adding another step to your oral hygiene routine might seem like too much work, but there are big benefits to making sure that you take your dentist's advice and add dental floss to your oral care toolbox. What's more, flossing the right way can help you get the most out of every strand.
Importance of Flossing
Imagine that the spaces between your teeth are like your kitchen floor. It gets dirty, but regular sweeping and mopping help keep it clean. Unfortunately, the longer you neglect them, the more buildup forms and the harder it is to clean. That's what happens when you skip flossing: the spaces between your teeth gather plaque, making it harder and harder to keep them clean. When the plaque grows out of control, it may lead to gum disease.
Choosing a Floss
The first step in banishing plaque from the tight spaces between your teeth is finding a product that you like and will use every day without fail. You can purchase dental floss in waxed and unwaxed versions, with some flavored and some unflavored. It's a personal preference, but the most important thing to remember with floss, is that you choose a product with the ADA seal. That means the product has been endorsed by the ADA and verified to be safe and effective.
Use this step-by-step guide to help you get the hang of flossing:
- Start with about 18 inches of floss. Wind 1/3 inch around one index finger and 1/3 inch around your opposite index finger.
- Grasp the floss between your thumb and index fingers and pull tightly.
- Gently slide the floss between your teeth, starting at your back molars and working your way forward.
- When the floss meets the gumline, pull to the side to make a 'c' shape against one tooth, push-pull motion and slide up and down, and then move to a new area of floss and repeat on the opposite tooth before moving between the next two teeth.
- Discard floss when you're done. Floss isn't reusable, and it isn't as effective the second time around and has plaque on it.
Tips and Tricks
Even if you have the floss and know how to use it, you might still find yourself forgetting to clean between your teeth after you brush. You can try a few different techniques to see if it helps trigger your memory. It doesn't matter if you floss before or after brushing, but keep your floss where you'll see it beside your toothbrush. That way, when you brush your teeth, you'll remember to floss as well. The best time of day to floss is whenever it fits best in your schedule.
The trick is to make sure that, like brushing, you floss every day prior to going to bed. If you don't like a brand of floss, don't be afraid to shop around to find a size, shape and flavor that you like. Your dentist can likely give you samples if you don't want to buy a new box just for a test drive.
Flossing is just as important as brushing; that's why your dentist always asks if it's part of your oral hygiene routine. All it takes it a few extra minutes. Your gums and teeth will thank you.