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Best Way to Use Dental Floss to Keep Your Teeth Healthy

Updated on June 26, 2011


Unless you have spaces between all of your teeth, there is no way a toothbrush can get at all the tooth surfaces where plaque accumulates. For that, you need either dental floss or interdental brushes - and you need to use them correctly..

Let's talk about flossing. It can be difficult at first but it gets much easier (and faster) with practice and correct technique. The practising is down to you but this should help technique-wise:

  • Take a length of floss about 30 cm (12") long.
  • Wrap it around the middle finger of each hand, leaving your first fingers and thumbs free to manoeuvre the floss between your teeth. Ensure the floss is pulled tight between your fingers leaving a length of about 10 cm.
  • Slide the floss gently between two teeth. It's usually easiest to use a back and forth see-saw motion to work the floss in.
  • Curve the floss in a 'C' shape around one of the teeth and move it up and down the tooth surface (still see-sawing if that's easier). Go as far beneath gum as you comfortably can.
  • Repeat this for the surface of the tooth next to the one you've just done.
  • Now move on the next space. Wind 3 - 4 cm or so off the middle finger of one hand and onto the middle finger of the other hand to give you a clean piece of floss to use.
  • Keep going until you have cleaned the spaces between all your teeth.

The best time to floss is before you brush, preferably at night. In general you only need to floss once a day - unless you get food stuck between your teeth.

If your gums are inflamed they may bleed when you floss. Don't let this stop you; the only way to stop the bleeding is to remove the plaque that's causing it (neither brushing nor flossing will cause healthy gums to bleed) If the bleeding doesn't stop after a few days of flossing, make an appointment to see your dentist or hygienist.

Dr Tom D Nolan is a cosmetic and general dentist working in Birmingham City Centre, UK. He also treats people for snoring and sleep apnoea.

Tom Nolan is a dentist with over 30 years’ experience.

If you found this article useful, you should check out his book

Watch Your Mouth – An Owner’s Manual.

Also available as a download. This book is packed with practical advice and will tell you everything you need to know to keep your mouth healthy, trouble-free and beautiful for the rest of your life.

You can get in touch via Tom's practice: The Dentist in Town.

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