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Updated on May 19, 2023
5 min read

How Often Should You Floss

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According to the American Dental Association (ADA), you should floss once daily.1

Many people brush their teeth daily but skip flossing because they don’t see the immediate benefit. A 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study showed that around a third of American adults never floss.2

However, brushing without flossing is less effective. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reaffirmed flossing as an “important oral hygiene practice.”

You should floss your teeth once a day before brushing to:

  • Remove leftover food particles
  • Control plaque
  • Reduce your risk of gum disease
  • Prevent cavities

How to Floss Your Teeth (Step-by-Step Instructions)

Flossing your teeth can be uncomfortable initially, but it’s easy to get the hang of after you’ve done it a few times. Follow these steps for an ideal flossing technique:

  1. Pull off an 18-inch-long piece of floss. 
  2. Wrap most of the floss around your middle fingers, leaving a small section in between. 
  3. Gently push the floss between two teeth.
  4. Once the floss touches your gums, wrap it against the side of one tooth. 
  5. While holding the floss against the tooth, gently move it back and forth and up and down. Make sure to reach the gum line. Then, repeat the same action on the side of the other tooth. 
  6. Unwind some of the wrapped floss from around your finger, using a new section of floss. 
  7. Repeat the process above for the rest of your teeth. 

Should You Floss in the Morning or at Night?

The time of day you floss is up to you. The ADA does not have any specific advice on when you should floss, just that you should do it correctly and every day. 

The most important thing is that you pick a time you’re the most likely to stick with. Do it when it's convenient for you, and you'll have adopted a new healthy habit before long.  

Should You Floss Before or After Brushing? 

You should floss before you brush your teeth. When you floss before brushing, it helps dislodge any food or plaque debris that the toothbrush can then remove. It may also lower the risk of gum disease and bad breath.

One study found that flossing before brushing was better at reducing plaque.6 Also, brushing after flossing led to more fluoride remaining in the mouth.

Is it Bad to Floss Twice a Day?

There's nothing wrong with flossing twice daily, but it's unnecessary. You might floss a second time to remove food stuck between your teeth. 

The most important thing is to be gentle (too much pressure will irritate your gums) while still being thorough. 

What Should You Use to Floss Your Teeth?

You'll also want to choose the right dental floss. There are six main types:

Waxed Floss 

Waxed floss is the most common type of dental floss. Many dentists and hygienists prefer it for its strength.

Unwaxed Floss 

Another common type of dental floss, unwaxed floss, is easier to get between teeth that are pressed together. However, unwaxed floss is more prone to shredding and breaking during use.

Floss Holders 

Also known as picks or pre-threaded flossers, floss holders are Y or E-shaped tools. They hold small floss segments between two prongs on the ends. Floss holders are easier to use than traditional ones, requiring less manual dexterity. They may be useful for smaller children. 

Dental Tape 

Dental tape is wider and flatter than floss. It works well for people with wider gaps between their teeth. It comes in both waxed and unwaxed forms.

Super Floss

Super floss resembles regular floss than tape but has a thick section in the middle. It’s a good option under bridges and in patients with orthodontic wires and appliances. 

Polytetrafluorethylene Floss (PTE) 

Also known as Teflon, PTE uses the same material as Gore-Tex fabric and non-stick cooking ware. It slides between teeth easily and is less likely to shred than waxed floss. 

PTE is the most popular brand of floss on the market today. However, there are concerns about possible health risks, including cancer, thyroid disease, and ulcerative colitis.7

String Floss vs. Water Flossers: Which is More Effective?

Many people can’t use string floss. For those people, water flossers can be a good alternative. 

Water flossers apply water pressure to the teeth to wash away plaque. They’re helpful for people who have:

  • Sensitive gums, since they can reduce gum inflammation8
  • Traditional braces3
  • Low manual dexterity or arthritis in their hands

Some studies have found that water flossers don’t remove as much plaque as string floss.10 However, supplementing your oral care routine with water flossing is significantly more effective at removing plaque than just brushing alone.4

What Happens if You Don’t Floss Your Teeth Daily? 

If you don’t floss your teeth daily, you raise your risk for numerous oral health issues, including tooth decay and gum disease. 

Brushing alone is not sufficient for removing the sticky film of plaque between teeth. Left long enough, plaque eventually hardens into a rough substance called tartar. Tartar collects along your gums and can lead to cavities and gum disease. Only your dentist can remove it with a professional cleaning.

Flossing daily is key to a clean mouth and may serve as good preventive care for complications elsewhere in the body. For example, evidence suggests poor oral health is linked to diabetes, cardiovascular illnesses, and Alzheimer's Disease.

Summary

You should floss once daily before you brush your teeth. Flossing removes bacteria and helps prevent plaque buildup, gum disease, and tooth decay.

Dentists typically recommend waxed string floss, but you can also use other types of floss, including floss holders and water flossers. 

Flossing daily increases the effectiveness of your oral hygiene routine. Start flossing once daily to help avoid costly dental bills and take care of your overall health.

Last updated on May 19, 2023
10 Sources Cited
Last updated on May 19, 2023
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Flossing.” American Dental Association, 2013.
  2. Inside Investigations: CDC’s Disease Detective Conference.” CDC Newsroom, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016.
  3. Genovesi, A., et al. “Periodontal Maintenance Following Scaling and Root Planing, Comparing Minocycline Treatment to Daily Oral Irrigation with Water.” Tuscan Stomatologic Institute, Department of Dentistry, 2013.
  4. Lyle, D., et al. “Comparison of Water Flosser and Interdental Brush on Plaque Removal: A Single-Use Pilot Study.” The Journal of Clinical Dentistry, Waterpik.com, 2016.
  5. Manchir, M. “Government, ADA recognize importance of flossing.” American Dental Association, Dehnert Dental, 2016.
  6. Mazhari, F. “The effect of toothbrushing and flossing sequence on interdental plaque reduction and fluoride retention: A randomized controlled clinical trial.” Journal of Periodontology, Wiley Online Library, 2018.
  7. Miller, R. “Oral-B Glide floss tied to potentially toxic PFAS chemicals, study suggests.” USA Today, 2019.
  8. Ng, E., et al. “An Overview of Different Interdental Cleaning Aids and Their Effectiveness.” Dentistry Journal, National Library of Medicine, 2019.
  9. Rack, J. “Are You Flossing Or Just Lying About Flossing? The Dentist Knows.” NPR, 2015.
  10. Winning, L., et al. “Periodontitis and systemic disease.” BDJ Team, Springer Nature Limited, 2015.
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