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Dentists such as Jonathan Alexander Abt know the importance of interdental (between the teeth) cleaning to maintain a healthy mouth. For those unable to use interdental brushes, flossing can be an effective option.

Flossing is a good way to remove plaque and prevent it from building up on your teeth, but it’s important to know how to floss properly for it to have the desired effect.

How to Use Dental Floss Effectively

Consider talking to your dentist before using floss for the first time; he or she can advise you on how to floss effectively and the best techniques to use. Generally, it’s advisable to floss from the top of the tooth downwards using a gentle but firm action, avoiding being overly vigorous to avoid causing any damage to your gums.

You’ll need about 18-24 inches of dental floss each time. Only 1-2 inches are needed for cleaning between your teeth; the rest should be wrapped around each of your middle fingers. As you move between each tooth, use a clean section of floss. When the floss reaches the gum of each tooth, curve it into a C shape to clean effectively between the gum and the tooth itself.

Take a look at the embedded PDF for information about the best way to floss if you’re wearing braces.

Flossing and Bleeding Gums

You may experience bleeding and tender gums when you first begin a flossing routine, which is usually nothing to worry about. As you continue to floss regularly, your gums will become healthier and it is likely that any bleeding or discomfort will cease; however, if your gums are still bleeding when you floss after a few days, consult your dental team for further advice. Similarly, if you are struggling to floss, ask your dentist for help.

When to Floss

Dentists generally advise patients to floss their teeth before brushing rather than afterwards. This is due to the fact that flossing releases food particles stuck between the teeth. Once this debris has been lifted, subsequent tooth brushing can flush it away from the mouth entirely. It is generally recommended to brush the teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day to maintain maximum oral health.

Flossing Tools

As an alternative to string dental floss, you may want to consider an electric flosser or a water flosser – with the latter being particularly useful for cleaning if you have braces. You could also try disposable floss picks, which can help to more easily reach the teeth at the back of the mouth.