Flossing can be a tedious thing and many people dread getting the question, “Have you been flossing?” at their dental checkups. Although it may be annoying it is still very important. Brushing alone is not enough to control the plaque that is in your mouth. To get rid of the plaque that finds its way in between your teeth, you must floss.
Additionally, flossing helps prevent future dental work as the existing plaque can cause “interproximal cavities” or cavities in between the teeth. Here are some simple flossing tips that will make you smile a little bigger the next time you see your dentist.
First, it’s important to know the basics. The American Dental Association (ADA) provides the following five steps to achieving a flawless floss:
- Break off about 18 inches of floss and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers. Wind the rest around the same finger of the opposite hand. This finger will take up the floss as it becomes dirty.
- Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.
- Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion. Never snap the floss into the gums.
- When the floss reaches the gum line, curve it into a C shape against one tooth. Gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth.
- Hold the floss tightly against the tooth. Gently rub the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum with up and down motions. Repeat this method on the rest of your teeth.
Now the question is, before or after brushing?
According to the ADA, the sequence of flossing and brushing makes no difference. As long as you do a thorough job of both. Also be sure to floss at least once a day, but more often if you can!
Choosing a floss
When you go to the store to buy floss, it can be a bit overwhelming because of all the different options. But when it comes down to it, there are only two types of floss, multifilament and monofilament. Multifilament is the more common type of floss on the market, and it is the standard dental floss that has been around for a very long time. Typically, multifilament floss is made out of nylon or silk, but the most common material is definitely nylon. Multifilament floss also comes waxed or un-waxed. Wax generally makes gliding the floss between your teeth easier and some say that it is more comfortable. One downside to multifilament floss is that it may shred or break easier than monofilament floss. Monofilament floss is newer to the market and made out of plastic or rubber. Since it is stronger, it doesn’t shred or tear. People generally find monofilament floss easier to use and move between teeth which is why many brands use the word “glide” in the floss name.
Both types are available in different thicknesses and flavors depending on your needs. The type of floss you use is mostly about preference. You have to choose one you won’t mind using every day.
Other manual options include floss picks and soft picks. Floss picks are just small sections of floss attached to a stick to make flossing easier. Soft picks look like tiny Christmas trees and they’re perfect for those with braces or permanent retainers because they effortlessly go between wire and teeth.
For those who want a more high-tech option, there are water picks which shoot water between teeth and clean out areas where gums pull ways from the teeth and form spaces. Due to its ease of use, water picks are a good option for those who have diminished motor function, but they should be used in conjunction with manual flossing as they are not the most well-equipped to remove all plaque.
While there are numerous products on the market to help make flossing a little easier, the most important thing to remember is that flossing controls plaque buildup and plaque buildup can lead to gum disease.
But how do you know if you’re doing a good job? Try using plaque disclosing tablets which are available over-the-counter at pharmacies and other stores that sell oral hygiene products. Plaque disclosing tablets are chewed after you clean your mouth. Red dye will stain plaque that has not been removed, showing you spots that need additional cleaning. Then you can use whatever works best for you to remove additional traces of plaque!
Find your own routine, so the next time you’re asked if you floss everyday, you can smile and say yes!
If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or call our office at 928-774-9553.
Dr. Joedi Pasut
Alpine Smiles Family Dentistry
1600 W. University Ave #113
Flagstaff, AZ 86001