Flossing Your Teeth: Everything You Need to Know

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dental flossing

While we usually brush our teeth at least twice a day, how many of us floss daily? Flossing is very important for our dental and oral hygiene. It cleans and removes food particles between your teeth, where toothbrush may be unable to reach. Hence, it helps to decrease the number of bacteria and plaque in your mouth. Plaque is a sticky film adhering on teeth when oral bacteria meets sugary or starchy food. It contributes to gum disease, cavities and tooth loss. Therefore, we need to floss our teeth daily in addition to brushing with toothpaste. 


However, incorrect flossing can harm your teeth and gums. So, not only do we need to floss, but also we have to floss properly. Healthy Matters brings you step-by-step instructions for the best way to floss.


5 steps to floss your teeth properly

  1. Break off about 30 to 45 cm (around 12 to 18 inches) of dental floss. Wind most of the floss from both ends around the middle finger of your hands. Leave around 3 to 5 cm (about 1 to 2 inches) of floss between your hands.
  2. Hold the remaining floss tightly with your thumbs and index fingers.
  3. Put the floss between 2 teeth. Gently rub the floss against the teeth in an up-and-down motion with 8 to 10 strokes.
  4. When the floss reaches the gum line, curve it to form a "C" shape around the base of each tooth. This allows the floss to get into the space between the gums and the tooth. Gently rub the side of the tooth to clean under the gums. Be careful not to glide the floss into the gums.
  5. Gently slide the floss out. Repeat the steps on the rest of your teeth. Unwind a clean section of floss as you move from tooth to tooth.

How often should you floss?

According to the American Dental Association, we should floss at least once a day to remove food particles, bacteria and plaque in order to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. You can even floss after each meal. Just make sure every time you floss, you do it in a gentle way so the floss does not scratch or bruise your gums.


When should we floss?

There is not a certain best timing for everyone to floss. The American Dental Association recommends people to floss at anytime that best fits into each individual's schedule. So it is completely up to you! You can start your day with a fresh and clean mouth by flossing in the morning, or you can also do it at night before sleep if it suits your schedule better. And why not both in the morning and at night if you have time?


Should I brush or should I floss first?

It is better to floss before brushing. A study had 25 dental students as participants. They were required to stop all forms of oral hygiene for 48 hours. The study was carried out in 2 phases with 2-week washout intervals. During the first phase, they had to brush their teeth before flossing (brush-floss group). In the second phase, they flossed before brushing (floss‐brush group). Dental plaque and fluoride concentrations (fluoride protects teeth from decay, it can be found in e.g. toothpaste and mouthwash) were measured before and after flossing and brushing. The results show that the overall plaque of the floss-brush group 'was reduced significantly more than the brush-floss group' while the fluoride concentrations in plaque between teeth were significantly higher when flossing before brushing. Also, the problem with brushing before flossing is that any food particle, plaque and bacteria released by flossing are still in your mouth to damage your dental and oral health until the next time you brush your teeth. 


Let's start flossing today and make flossing become your habit! We wish that by brushing and flossing your teeth properly every day, you can smile with your beautiful teeth showing without any worries. Side note: You should also replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months for better dental and oral hygiene. 


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American Dental Association. Government, ADA Recognize the Importance of Flossing. www.ada.org/.../association-responds-to-news-story-challenging-benefits-of-dental-floss-use 

Mouth Healthy. 5 Steps to a Flawless Floss. www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/f/flossing-steps 

NHS. How to Keep Your Teeth Clean. www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-keep-your-teeth-clean/ 

Tooth Club. Oral Health Care Zone for Grown-ups. www.toothclub.gov.hk/en/en_adu_01_03_03.html

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This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.

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