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Updated on May 19, 2023
5 min read

How to Floss

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Why is Flossing Important?

Your dentist has probably told you to floss after you brush your teeth at the end of the day. And they have a very fair point. Using interdental cleaners, such as floss, should be a crucial part of your dental care routine.

Researchers and dentists agree that drinking fluoridated water, brushing your teeth, and flossing between the teeth are the most effective ways to reduce the amount of time that sugars and starches are in the mouth.

Flossing only takes a few extra minutes, and the added step can help keep plaque buildup at bay and your teeth and gums healthy.

While disputed evidence supports the necessity of flossing, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends it.

Flossing is essential for a lot of reasons, according to the ADA. Over 500 bacterial species, both good and bad, can be found in plaque. When that bacteria mixes with food debris, water, and other substances, it can damage your teeth.

Floss to Prevent Gum Disease

Plaque can lead to gingivitis and, eventually, periodontitis. This condition is also known as advanced gum disease, which is a severe gum infection. 

While gingivitis is reversible, periodontitis is not. Periodontitis takes a toll on the soft tissue of your gums and can eventually damage the bone that supports your teeth. If left untreated, this can lead to loosened teeth or even tooth loss.

teeth with plaque and red gums from gingivitis

While periodontitis is common, it’s extremely preventable. Daily flossing helps to keep both your teeth and gums healthy because it removes food particles and plaque. Otherwise, these substances will build up and lead to cavities, gingivitis, and gum disease in the areas where your toothbrush bristles can’t reach. 

For good dental health, the ADA recommends brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day every day with fluoride toothpaste, plus cleaning between your teeth once a day with any kind of flossing technique.

You may also want to use mouthwash after flossing to wash away any debris that flossing removes.

Types of Flossing Tools

There are various types of floss tools out there to help you floss better and keep up with your dental hygiene.

It’s worth trying out different tools to see which one you like best. If you like the tool you’re using, the chances are that you’ll floss more, as you should.

Water Flossers

A water flosser, also known as an oral pulsating irrigator, squirts water at the tooth surface between your gums.

It is great for reaching your back teeth and molars. However, it is not typically considered an alternative to traditional floss.

Water flossers are a wonderful solution for people in orthodontics or who have difficulty using traditional floss. It is also good for dental prosthetics like bridges (where it can be difficult to clean underneath). 

It doesn’t remove the film and plaque on your teeth like brushing and flossing with string does. But it can help get rid of some of the harmful bacteria living in your mouth and flush away loose debris that can cause plaque.

Waterpik offers many water flossing products. The company makes water flossers for at-home use, on the go, and in combination with a toothbrush to fit all lifestyle needs.

Waterpik Sonic Fusion 2.0

String Floss

Standard string dental floss is one of the best tools for cleaning the spaces between your teeth.

With string floss, you can get into the gums and scrape up and down the sides of your teeth. You can also go for waxed floss so that it won’t splinter or get stuck in your teeth.

Oral B Glide

Floss Picks

Floss picks typically have string floss on one end and a plastic pick on the other end.

Floss picks are ideal for chipping away at plaque that builds up between your teeth, thanks to the sturdy, pointy end. But you should make sure to use both sides of a floss pick.

Using the string floss is just as important, if not more important, as using the pick. Many younger kids or people with dexterity issues prefer flossers because it is easier to control.

Corn starch floss picks

How to Floss Your Teeth With String Floss

Flossing your teeth with string floss is simple. Let’s break it down into six simple steps:

  1. Break off a few inches of floss from the floss threader. 
  2. Wrap each end around your middle fingers or index fingers to create a C shape with the floss.
  3. Slide the floss between your teeth to scrape away at the plaque, food, and debris at a 45-degree angle.
  4. Move the floss up and down between your teeth, getting beneath the gums. Create a c-shape around your tooth to reach the backside.
  5. Repeat steps one through three for each tooth.
  6. Rinse with mouthwash to wash away any debris that the flossing may have loosened up.

Again, it’s important that you don’t just floss your teeth. You also have to brush your teeth twice a day to keep your teeth clean and gums healthy.

How to Floss Your Teeth With a Water Flosser 

With a water flosser, aim the water between your teeth and rinse away any food particles. Make sure to get the front and backside of every tooth.

Depending on the water flosser you have, you may have to follow specific product instructions to fill the flosser with water and charge it if necessary. Also, some water flossers can attach to your toothbrush, while others are separate. 

How Often Should You Floss Your Teeth?

Flossing is key in maintaining oral hygiene.

Most medical advice suggests that you should floss your teeth at least once per day, in addition to brushing twice a day and rinsing with mouthwash.

If you eat something that easily gets stuck between your teeth (such as popcorn or corn), you may want to floss after eating it.

Water Flossers vs. Dental Floss: Which is Better?

Water flossers and dental floss are both solutions for flossing your teeth. With everything, there are pros and cons to each of them.

While water flossers are wonderful in that they can flush away bacteria and don’t cause as much irritation and bleeding as string floss, they don’t necessarily remove all the film and plaque on your teeth.

Meanwhile, standard string dental floss is generally considered the most effective and efficient tool for flossing your teeth. However, for people with sensitive gums or gum disease, flossing may cause bleeding. But the more you floss, the more resilient your gums will become, and the less they will bleed.

What’s Next?

Last updated on May 19, 2023
6 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. Cepeda, M Soledad, et al. “Association of Flossing/Inter-Dental Cleaning and Periodontitis in Adults.” Journal of Clinical Periodontology, John Wiley and Sons Inc., Sept. 2017
  2. “Dental Floss vs. Water Pick: Which Is Better?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 7 Feb. 2020
  3. Federal Government, ADA Emphasize Importance of Flossing and Interdental Cleaners
  4. “Oral Health Products.” Waterpik® Official Site: Oral Health & Shower Heads 
  5. “Periodontitis.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 14 Feb. 2020
  6. Robert H. Shmerling, MD. “Tossing Flossing?” Harvard Health Blog, 14 Aug. 2016
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