How to use dental floss: An animated guideto dental flossing technique.Dental flossing technique.The information found on this page provides instructions for what we would consider a goodtooth flossing technique. Its one that is thorough and one that should be able to keep you in gooddental health, if practiced daily.Wed suggest that you study our description of this technique and then demonstrate yourinterpretation of our instructions to your dentist or dental hygienist. This way they can refineyour flossing technique as needed, and also give you tips and pointers that may help you usedental floss more effectively in specific locations in your mouth.Instructions for flossing your teeth.The way you hold the dental floss is important.When flossing your teeth, start off by breaking about 18 inches of dental floss from your flossdispenser. Take each end of the floss and begin to wrap it around the middle two fingers of eachof your hands. Wrap most of the floss on the fingers of one hand while wrapping just enough onthe other hand that the dental floss is easily held. Continue to wrap the floss until just a smalllength (3 to 4 inches) is left stretching between your hands.The idea is that the floss will be held by these middle fingerswhile some combination of each hands index finger andthumb will be used to manipulate the dental floss betweenyour teeth. Using this method to hold the floss is fairlyimportant. It is much more difficult to clean those areas
where access is limited if you are trying to manipulate the dental floss with the same fingers youare holding it with.So, go ahead and pinch the dental floss with the thumb and index finger of each hand. Thereshould be about 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches of dental floss stretched between your pinch hold on thefloss. This is the section of the dental floss that will be worked between your teeth and used toclean away the accumulated food debris and dental plaque.Gently work the dental floss between your teeth.To floss a particular location you will need to work the dental floss past the contact point wherethe two teeth touch. If the contact between the teeth is very tight you may need to use a slightback and forth sawing motion to get the floss to go. You might also need to use a small amountof pressure to help to guide the floss through the contact point. But dont use so much force thatthe dental floss snaps past the contact and traumatizes your gums.Work the dental flossup and down the side ofeach tooth.At this point the floss will occupy aposition that is beyond the point ofcontact between the two teeth but stillabove the level of the gums. In order tocontinue the flossing process you willneed to pull the dental floss snugly upagainst the side of one of the two teeth.This will force the floss to conform tothe shape of the tooth, thus positioningit so it can scrub a maximum amountof the tooths surface.
While still keeping the pressure of the floss up against the tooths surface (not on the gum tissue)slide the dental floss up and down the side of the tooth both above and especially below the gumline. Continue to manipulate the floss in this manner a few times so you know that you havescrubbed this tooth surface thoroughly. Once you have finished cleaning the side of this firsttooth you will need to bring the floss back above the gum line, pull it up against the side of theother tooth, and then clean this second tooth just like you did the first one.Once you have scrubbed the sides of both teeth, both above and below the gum line, you havefinished cleaning this one location. Now all you need to do is bring the dental floss back outthrough the contact point and move on to the area between the next two teeth.Dont forget to floss the back side of the last teeth in your mouth and the sides of any teeth thatface spaces where teeth have been removed. Even though your toothbrush may be able to reachthese tooth surfaces there will be dental plaque that occupies that position below the gum linewhere a toothbrush has difficulty cleaning.
Always keep the pressure of the dental floss against thetooths surface.Its important that you always keep the pressure of the dental floss up against the tooths side andnot directed onto your gum tissue. The whole goal of flossing is to scrub dental plaque off eachtooths surface. Directing the force of the dental floss onto your gums serves no purpose anddoing so will only traumatize them. One sign of this type of inappropriate flossing is that a cleftwill form in the gum tissue that lies between your teeth.Change the portion of dental floss you are flossing with fromtime to time.As the dental floss becomes soiled or frayed let go of one loop of the floss from the fingers ofone hand and wrap the slack up on the other so to bring a clean section of floss forward to beused. In reality, the idea of using a "clean" section of dental floss is somewhat of a myth.Bacteria are microscopic in size you could never know where on your hands or on the floss theydo exist or in what numbers.However, there is no reason to give bacteria any help at all in recolonizing the areas you arecleaning. Especially in the case where you see a glob of dental plaque on your working section offloss, go ahead and unwrap one loop of dental floss from one hand and wrap this same amountup on the other so that the portion of floss that stretches between your pinch hold is a freshsection.You should rinse your mouth out after you floss.
You should be sure to rinse your mouth out after you have flossed. Even though the floss willhave dislodged dental plaque and bits of food, many times these particles still lie somewhatprotected in between teeth. Rinsing vigorously can help to complete the job of expelling theseitems out of your mouth.You may find that your gums are tender or bleed when youfloss your teeth.When you floss your teeth you may find that your gums are tender or bleed. Tenderness andbleeding are typically signs of gum inflammation. In most cases this inflammation exists becausea person either doesnt floss, doesnt floss on a daily basis, or else doesnt use an effectiveflossing technique.Inflammation is a protective response our tissues mount in response to a threat. In the case ofgum inflammation the trigger is typically bacteria (and the chemical byproducts they produce)that are harbored in the dental plaque that has accumulated at and below a persons gum line. Thesigns of inflammation can include gum redness, swelling, tenderness, and bleeding.You should initially assume that the bleeding and tenderness you notice when flossing are signsthat you have not been cleaning that particular area effectively and therefore inflammation ispresent. Wed suggest that you adhere to the instructions we describe here for flossing, both interms of technique and flossing frequency (once a day). Doing so should allow your gums tobegin to heal.As the healing process takes place and the inflammation in your gums subsides you shouldnotice less and less bleeding and tenderness, to the point where you no longer notice thesesymptoms at all. However, if after a week or two of practicing a very diligent flossing regimen
you still do notice gum tenderness and bleeding you should schedule an appointment with yourdentist so they can evaluate your situation.