Flossing the Key to Strong Oral Health

While just a simple, occasionally flavored and often waxed piece of string wrapped tightly around your finger, floss can have a profound effect on your oral and overall health by helping to prevent tooth decay and cavities.

Flossing dislodges food particles and bacteria that become trapped between your teeth and along the gum line, areas of your mouth where a toothbrush just can’t reach. When left unchecked, this combination of food and bacteria – commonly referred to as plaque – can cause cavities, bad breath and gum disease all to develop.

If that’s not bad enough, a number of recent studies have shown that individuals suffering from tooth decay and gum disease have an increase risk of developing a number of other chronic health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stroke, and even certain forms of cancer.

Fortunately, you can greatly reduce your risk for all of these conditions by practicing quality oral hygiene, which means flossing on a nightly basis. However, despite the importance associated with flossing, surveys conducted by the American Dental Association have found that only 52 percent of adults floss on a nightly basis, with 10 percent reporting they never floss at all.

That so few people take habit seriously just goes to show how underappreciated flossing is when it comes to maintaining a great looking smile. So you can enjoy a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums, here are a few tips on the right way to floss.

Perfect Your Technique

Whether using a traditional spool of dental floss or a floss pick, perfecting your flossing routine can allow you to properly clean between your teeth and gum line in just a few minutes.

If using a spool of floss, cut off about 18 inches so you can wrap roughly 12 inches of floss around the index finger of your dominant hand, while holding the edge of the remaining six inches taught with your off hand. Once you have the floss in place, firmly slide the strand between your teeth. Position your hands so the floss curves around the edge of your tooth in the shape of a C. Now gently move the floss back and forth, starting at the bottom of the tooth and moving up towards the gum line. Reposition your hands once you’ve cleaned under the gum line so the C shape of your floss cups the tooth on the opposite side of the one you just cleaned. Starting from the gum line, work the floss back and forth down the length of the tooth until freed.

After cleaning between two teeth, you need to change out the floss you use by wrapping the used portion of your floss strand around the index finger on your less dominant hand (this would be the left hand for a right handed person). When using a floss pick, make sure to rinse the floss before moving on to clean more of your teeth. Now that you have fresh floss to work with, repeat the process above until you have finished cleaning between set of teeth in your mouth. All together, you should spend between one to two minutes a night flossing.

What Type of Floss to Use

Walk down the oral hygiene isle of your local grocery store and there will be an overwhelming number of options for you to choose from when it comes to addressing your flossing needs. While any type or brand of dental floss will do, the type that’s right for you depends on personal preference.

Unless you have an aversion to its feel, you should probably consider using a waxed dental floss as they’re much easier to slide between teeth when compared to unwaxed varieties. Flavored wax, whether mint or cinnamon, can leave your mouth feeling fresher after flossing but offer no other noticeable advantages when compared to unflavored varieties.

When trying to pick between wide ribbon and thinner floss, you should consider that the wider a strand of floss, the more debris it will remove from between your teeth with every stroke. Thinner floss may, however, be necessary for individuals who have teeth set tightly together, making it harder to thread a wider strand in-between.