FFlossing is the second most important technique needed to keep your teeth clean.  Flossing should be done at least once a day to remove plaque from between the teeth and under the gum line.  Brushing alone cannot reach these areas.  Because tooth decay and gum infections often start in these areas, it is very important to clean them thoroughly every day.

Flossing is a skill that needs to be learned.  Don’t be discouraged if you find flossing difficult at first.  In fact, when you first take up flossing it is common to have slight bleeding and soreness.  For this reason it is best to begin flossing before you go to bed at night.  The initial bleeding should stop as you sleep.  The gums bleed because they are weak and soft in these areas if you don’t floss regularly.  As you learn to floss the gums will toughen up.  After about two weeks you should be able to floss anytime without fear of slight bleeding.

When flossing, break off about 18 inches of floss and wind it around your pointer fingers or the tall fingers.  Leave about 3 or 4 inches of string between your hands.  Pinch and pull the floss tightly between your thumbs and pointing fingers with about an inch between them.  The floss should be taut with no slack.  Using a gentle sawing motion, guide the floss between your teeth.  As the floss gets through the contact, stop sawing and begin an up and down massaging motion in the thin space between the tooth and gums.  Be sure the floss is pressed tightly against the tooth, curving around its contours.  After a couple of strokes against the first tooth, lift the floss to the top of the space beneath the contact.  Move the pressure to the other tooth and resume the up and down massage with the floss pressed tightly against this tooth, again curving around its contours.  Be sure not to hurt yourself.  Flossing should not be painful nor should it lacerate the gums.

While flossing takes quite a while to describe, the complete action, once practiced, can be completed in moments.  Repeat the flossing for every tooth; especially the back side of the last teeth.

Flossing is vital to the health and longevity of your teeth.  If you find it difficult to accomplish there are commercial floss holders which may make it slightly easier.  There is another technique which involves tying the floss in a loop instead of wrapping it around the fingers.  You may also find that the floss can be rinsed and used repeatedly if tied in a loop instead of tying around the fingers, which saves the time you spend trying to throw away the floss.  ‘Cause floss don’t fly’.  Wider floss can be helpful for those experiencing gum infection.  Waxed floss can be helpful for those with very tight contacts between the teeth.  There is even flavored floss which can be quite refreshing.  Kids should begin flossing at about age 12 and the loop technique is especially good for kids.

Flossing alternatives
If there are some physical limitations which prevent you from being able to floss, then a Water Pick is an acceptable alternative.  A Water Pick shoots a stream of water between the teeth to dislodge any food particles and most of the plaque.  Toothpicks are advocated by some dentists, but university studies would dispute the sufficiency of this technique in replacing flossing.  Toothpicks can be used after dinner to clean the gum line; however, the tip should be slightly blunted to prevent laceration of the gums.  Proxy brushes may also be useful in cleaning contact which are very wide.  If an individual has braces or a bridge, then floss threaders are excellent at drawing the floss through the contacts allowing thorough flossing to be accomplished despite the closed contacts.

Again, this guide is only for educational purposes for the curious.  You should have personalized oral hygiene instruction prescribed by a dentist who has evaluated your own dental conditions.  If you do not have a personal dentist, call or email Dr. Campbell, Dentists today and set up an initial consultation at 1-800-833-3111 or hygiene@drcampbell.com