How to floss properly

by Dr. Dennis Simmons

Flossing is an important part of maintaining good oral health. Brushing your teeth only cleans 3 of the 5 visible surfaces on the tooth (the top, the front, and the back). Flossing takes care of the sides of the teeth which account for about 40% of the tooth's total surface. You don't want to be cleaning your teeth with only a 60% effort do you?

Flossing is also important in the prevention of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria that are left un-touched and un-cleaned for an extended period of time. That bacterium slowly makes its way into the teeth, gums and can actually spread to other parts of the body. Researchers have found that periodontal disease can most frequently be traced to bacteria that form in between the teeth.

Some individuals may have trouble flossing. Children especially have a difficult time learning how to floss properly. Parents may need to help their children to floss or floss for them until the children are old enough to do it for themselves. The key is to be patient. It is not uncommon for it to take up to two weeks of trying before you are able to floss successfully. There are a number of valuable questions that are frequently asked when it comes to proper brushing. Below you will find some of these common questions and answers.

Q: What is the proper way to floss? A: The proper way to floss is to take the floss and slowly maneuver it in between your teeth. Once you have gotten the floss to the gum line, carefully move it back and forth as you slide it up the tooth. Repeat this process with the next gap in the teeth. When you floss you need not worry about cleaning the gums themselves, using the above method is sufficient.

Q: What if there are areas of my mouth that I just can't fit the floss down into? A: Many people have teeth that are either really closely situated to each other or are awkwardly spaced. The best way to solve this problem is to talk to your dentist or dental hygienist at your next appointment. There are tools that you can use to make getting into difficult spaces easier. There are floss holders and threading tools that make difficult to floss areas more manageable.

Q: What kind of floss should I use? A: There are many floss options available. There are flosses that are flavored, waxed, un-waxed, flat, round string, ribbon, textured, spongy, fluoridated, etc. One brand or type of floss does not provide hygiene benefits over another type of floss. It is all about finding floss that works for you. Those who have wider gaps in their teeth may prefer thicker floss. Conversely those with closely spaced teeth may prefer waxed ribbon floss. The point is to floss.

Q: I bleed when I floss, is that normal? A: Often times bleeding is a sign of infection or irritation. If you are just beginning to floss after not having done so for a while it is likely that you will have some minor bleeding. As you continue to floss and as your gums and teeth are cleaned from the bacteria that were causing them to be weakened, your bleeding should stop. If you are flossing too vigorously you may also experience bleeding. Remember that you do not have to focus on rubbing the floss on your gums, this is not necessary. If you experience heavy or persistent bleeding, you should contact your dentist or other medical professional.

Q: How many times a day do I need to floss? A: Unlike tooth brushing, you need only floss once a day. Of course it is a good idea to floss more frequently after eating foods that can become stuck in between your teeth (such as corn on the cob or sticky candy). Flossing before going to bed is generally sufficient for most people to keep bacteria from forming between the teeth.

About the Author
Dr. Dennis Simmons, DDS, is a leader in Apple Valley cosmetic dentistry. Dr. Simmons is highly experienced in Smile Makeovers, Dental Implants and Sedation Dentistry. To get more information on how Dr. Simmons can give you a brilliant smile visit the Twin Cities Dental Center or call (952) 891-8484.


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