How to Floss
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How to Floss


Dental floss removes plaque from between teeth and at the gumline. Plaque is a sticky material containing germs that accumulates on teeth and can lead to gum disease (periodontal disease). The best way to get rid of plaque is to brush and floss your teeth daily. The toothbrush cleans the tops and sides of your teeth. Dental floss cleans in between them. The Academy of General Dentistry recommends flossing at least once a day, for 2-3 minutes. The best time of day to floss is right before going to bed.

Flossing also:

  • Polishes tooth surfaces
  • Controls bad breath
  • Increases the chances of keeping your teeth for a lifetime

Steps:

  1. Break off about 18 inches of floss, and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers. Wind the rest around the middle finger of your other hand.
  2. Pinch floss between the thumb and index finger of each hand, leaving about one inch of floss between your two hands.
  3. Pull the floss taut and use a gentle sawing motion to insert it between two teeth.
  4. When the floss reaches the tip of the triangular gum flap, curve the floss into a C shape against one of the teeth. Then slide the floss gently into the space between the tooth and the gum until you feel resistance.
  5. Holding the floss tightly against the tooth, scrape up and down five or six times along the side of the tooth and under the gumline.
  6. Without removing the floss, curve it around the adjacent tooth and scrape that one too.
  7. Floss each tooth thoroughly with a clean section of floss. A turn of each middle finger brings out a fresh section of floss.
  8. After flossing, rinse well with water.

Flossing Aids

A pre-threaded flosser or floss holder may be helpful for some people, including:

  • People just learning to floss
  • People with limited dexterity
  • Caretakers who are flossing someone else's teeth

Resources

The American Dental Hygienists’ Association
http://www.adha.org/

Academy of General Dentistry
http://www.agd.org/

References

Proper flossing. The American Dental Hygienists’ Association website. Available at: http://www.adha.org/oralhealth/flossing.htmhttp. Accessed February 25, 2007.

Flossing. Academy of General Dentistry website. Available at: http://www.agd.org/consumer/topics/flossing/ . Accessed February 25, 2007.



Last reviewed February 2007 by Janet H. Greenhut, MD, MPH

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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