Updated: 2/7/2020 Flossing. We all know it’s important, yet so few of us actually do it. Flossing often seems like so little a task that its contribution to oral health…

Guy with glasses and orange suspenders and beautiful smile because he flosses a lot

Helpful Tips for Flossing

Updated: 2/7/2020

Flossing. We all know it’s important, yet so few of us actually do it. Flossing often seems like so little a task that its contribution to oral health is often overlooked. However, flossing is actually a critical part of not just our dental health, but our overall health, as flossing has recently been linked to the prevention of diseases like diabetes. Floss is able to fit into the tiny crevices that your toothbrush can’t reach between teeth, and not flossing can lead to periodontal disease or bad breath. Unfortunately, many people are not aware of the correct way to floss, and may actually be doing more harm than good.

Facts About Flossing

In 2010, Healthy People released some statistics about oral hygiene. These statistics showed that only about half of the American population claim to floss daily. In addition, 18.5% were found not to floss at all. If that number doesn’t impress you, check out this fact: a person who flosses once a day should use about 122 yards of floss every year. However, sales statistics show that only an average of 18 yards of floss per person is sold each year. Does that put it into perspective for you?

Additional Flossing Statistics:

  • 73% of people say they would rather go grocery shopping than floss
  • Women are more likely to floss than men
  • People aged 31-60 are more likely to floss than other age groups
  • Approximately 40% of individuals who floss are flossing incorrectly

The Right Way to Floss

When most people floss, they thread the floss through their teeth and then “saw” back and forth. This technique is actually harmful as it can abrade the tooth. Continually flossing in this manner could ultimately result in creating a groove in the tooth.

The correct way to floss is to start at the top of the tooth near the gum line, and bring the floss down. Then, move onto a clean part of the floss and go to the next tooth. You don’t want to use the same part of the floss, because after one use, it’s covered with plaque. Reusing it would just be adding to the bacteria that’s already there.

You also want to be careful not to floss too aggressively, or you could cut into your gums and cause bleeding. Flossing once a day is plenty, and it’s recommended that you floss at night. Flossing at night is more effective in the prevention of tooth decay or gum disease; otherwise, the bacteria would be sitting in your mouth overnight.

Choosing Floss

There are many different options for floss. Experts recommend sticking with regular dental floss, as opposed to harps or water picks. Those are often easier, but regular floss is the most effective.

If you have bridges or wide spaces between your teeth, wide floss or dental tape may be a better choice. As far as waxed versus unwaxed, or ribbon versus string, it’s really more a matter of preference rather than effectiveness. Waxed floss slides between teeth easier, while unwaxed squeaks when your teeth are clean so you always know you’ve done a good job. Ribbon has a larger surface area than string, and string can sometimes cut your fingers if you’re not careful. All are effective – the choice is up to you.

Flossing is a critical part of oral hygiene, however, flossing should not be used instead of brushing. Flossing works best in addition to brushing for a bacteria-free mouth. Your teeth are not fully cleaned until you floss, so be sure to floss at least once a day to ensure a healthy smile.

  1. I have been a long time flosser and can tell anyone that you might solve many oral sensitivity problems by regular flossing. Before I used dental floss on a regular basis, my gums would bleed and my teeth where much more sensitive. Now, my gums are a lot tougher (and ultimately cleaner) than before and teeth siprisingly less sensitive !

  2. These are good statistics about flossing. Its so hard to get it through our patients that they need to floss daily in order to keep their gums healthy. We see lots of people who just bleed a lot because of infections from not flossing. I think that’s when it starts sinking in that they need to floss.

    Good info Libby!

    Scott@ Dentist in Anchorage, Ak

  3. Pingback: 7 Shocking Things That Damage Teeth « dentistabritesmile

  4. to ID –

    thanks for the most helpful tip – i had been spending a good part of my day just flossing – how grateful i am to have received your tip – actually, i brushed and flossed whenever i ate ANYTHING at any time during the day or night and just before bed –

    i guess i’m lucky that i have something left to floss – smiles – kay

  5. i have been flossing after every meal – now i shall just floss before bed – am i correct – or did i read this “tip” incorrectly?

    • Hi Kay, while it’s a great idea to floss after meals, flossing just once a day is really all that’s recommended. Flossing before bed ensures that you catch all the food and bacteria from the day and it’s not sitting in your mouth for an extended period overnight.

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