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If you think that flossing is complicated or awkward, you’re not alone. While many people acknowledge the importance of flossing for their oral health, doing it the right way can be tricky.

The only way to remove foods left between teeth is through regular and proper flossing. If these food particles are not removed, they can cause tooth decay or gum disease. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly half of all Americans have gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. Meanwhile, dental caries, which can lead to tooth decay, affecting 9 out of 10 adults. These staggering statistics highlight the vital importance of flossing.

Flossing: The Proper Way

Effectively cleaning spaces between your teeth requires proper technique and practice. Even if you regularly use dental floss, you might be unable to fully clean hard-to-reach areas. Improper or vigorous flossing might also hurt or damage your gums. I’m pretty sure you’ve experienced spitting some blood after using the dental floss.  

San Diego dentists from Bajars Dental emphasize that it’s not enough that you floss regularly, it should be done right. Here they share some effective tips to help improve your flossing technique and ensure its effectiveness.

Use appropriate length

Probably the most common mistake is using shorter dental floss. As a result, you are unable to properly control its movement. Ideally, you should use 18-24 inches of floss. The excess floss should wrap around the middle finger. Slowly release more as you work between teeth. This allows you to taut the floss and to maneuver it more effectively to remove food particles, buildup, and bacteria.

Use clean floss for every space

As you move from tooth to tooth, use a new, clean section of floss. Never use the same floss on different teeth as it can distribute bacteria to other parts and re-introduce the buildup back into the teeth. Use your thumb and index finger to manipulate and expose clean sections of the original 24-inch string.

Choose the right floss

Some sections of the teeth can have tight spaces. For these areas, it is best to use monofilament floss or waxed nylon floss. These floss types can glide easily in between teeth even with very limited space. They are designed to have stronger fibers, thus they won’t easily shred and get stuck in your teeth. Alternatively, you can use Teflon or PTFE floss which is hardy and very shred resistant. If you’ve bought a dental floss that doesn’t come through, don’t force it as you might accidentally snap and harm your gums. Choosing the right floss is important to avoid hurting your gums and effectively clean your teeth.

Use a gentle, back-and-forth motion

Gently direct the floss between teeth moving in a back-and-forth motion. Avoid shoving or snapping floss down to the gums. Forcefully sliding the floss down into your gums can harm the tissue and lead to inflammation. If bacteria are introduced, it might result in gum disease. Apply the same gliding motion when pulling out the floss from the teeth.

Use floss picks for better control

If you’re the clumsy type, particularly having a hard time maneuvering the string in between your middle finger and thumb, floss picks or dental flossers are a great alternative. This type of dental floss uses a c-shaped plastic applicator where the floss string is affixed. They allow you to easily floss with just one hand and minimal hand-eye coordination. Use the same back-and-forth motion, rubbing it up and down the tooth’s surface and underneath the gum. The handle of the floss pick works like a toothpick which you can use to push out large food particles caught between the teeth.

Final Thoughts

Ideally, you should floss at least once a day, but make sure you try to remove stuck food particles by swishing some water after every meal. However, if you can floss every after brushing, then that would be better!

Some might find flossing a bit time-consuming. Others even consider it a major hassle. However, it requires discipline and motivation to always perform proper flossing. Find time to practice flossing and make it a regular part of your hygiene. Soon, you might even find it enjoyable.

If flossing is new to you or you’ve long stopped doing it, it might cause your gums to hurt or to bleed. But worry not, this only means that you should floss more regularly. Over time, soreness and bleeding will become lesser. Usually, these are signs of gum inflammation, thus makes flossing even more necessary. Just make sure to use the proper techniques so that you can enjoy the full benefits of dental floss.