Ok, I know that dentists and hygienists have a reputation for being obsessed with flossing. I remember going to the dentist as a child and wondering how they always knew that I didn’t floss every day and why they would harp on that every time. The reason for our infatuation is simple. As wonderful as brushing your teeth is, your toothbrush simply cannot reach every surface of your tooth. Where the teeth touch, or contact, the space is too tight for your toothbrush bristles to fit. This means up to 60% of the surface area of your teeth can be missed by brushing alone. Flossing does more that just clean food from in between your teeth. When done correctly flossing helps strengthen your gum tissue and removes plaque from in between the tooth and gum.

What Types of Floss Are There?

There are many different types of floss and that can make it overwhelming when you are in the dental aisle of the drugstore. First and foremost I would say as long as you are there actually buying floss you are already ahead of the curve. From a dentist perspective the tried and true “rope” floss is still the gold standard. This type of floss is best because it is able to be manipulated to contour to the curvature of the tooth.

The best way to use this floss is to take about a foot and a half piece between two fingers on opposite hands. Next gently push the floss through the contact of two teeth, wrap the floss in a C-shaped ‘hug’ around one tooth and move it up and down the length of the tooth into the gum. Then wrap the floss around the neighbor tooth and do the same. Afterwards pull the floss out and move to the next two teeth.

What About Floss-Sticks?

The floss-sticks or floss threaders have become very popular of late. You will find them in the same aisle. The tight hold on the piece of floss makes it harder to manipulate into that C-shaped pattern we were talking about above, but again it is better than nothing! Floss-sticks are a great way to get kids flossing, a great way to travel, or the perfect hygiene tool for someone with limited manual dexterity.

Floss picks, toothpicks, and waterpicks can also be a great addition to your oral hygiene arsenal. They are better at removing food from in between the teeth than they are an removing plaque from the contact or gumline. For that reason they should be used to supplement regular flossing, not  to take the place of flossing entirely.

How Often Should I Floss?

Aim to floss at least once a day. I always suggest getting your technique down in front of the bathroom mirror, but once you get the hang of it you can floss anywhere. If it’s too boring for you, floss while you are watching tv. If you are too busy, floss while you are on a conference call. In no time your mouth will be feeling so healthy and clean, you will become just as obsessed as all of the dental professionals out there… and boy will we be impressed at your next cleaning!