Why you need to floss and how to do it right

Flossing is a part of your oral hygiene routine that can get neglected if you don’t realise how important it is, or if it is uncomfortable because you are flossing incorrectly. If you Google how to floss you might just end up with instructions for that weird little dance that was trending a few years ago, so here’s some more practical dental advice for you from Loock Dental!

Can flossing incorrectly be bad for you?

If you floss incorrectly, there is a small risk you might hurt your gums and release harmful bacteria into the bloodstream. It is important to be gentle and not saw up and down between the gums, cutting into them. Your dentist can usually see signs that you are flossing or brushing incorrectly and demonstrate how to do it properly.

What type of flossing is best?

The British Dental Association recommend using a small interdental brush as the best way to clean between your teeth. However, if the gap between your teeth is too tight, there may not be space for an interdental brush and then floss is the best way to go.

Why should we floss at all?

It is important to clean the surfaces between your teeth, and correct flossing also allows you to clean a little under the gum line around the top of your teeth. Flossing or interdental brushing can help you remove food particles and plaque starting to build between teeth. This can help prevent the development of cavities and gingivitis or periodontal disease. Your ordinary toothbrush cannot reach the surfaces between your teeth, which is why a dentist invented floss in the first place.

So while there has been some controversy on the internet about whether flossing is important or not, some dentists have pointed out that weak evidence in research studies does not mean there aren’t clear clinical benefits to cleaning between your teeth using floss or special brushes. What you might do is speak to your dentist about what tool might specifically be the best for your teeth and gums (an interdental brush or floss tape, for instance).

At what age should you start flossing?

The Australian Dental Association recommends that children start flossing on their own once they are around 10 years old, but they need to start flossing in general as soon as they have two teeth with touching surfaces. Before 10 years old, they generally don’t have the manual dexterity to do it properly for themselves, so parents need to help with cleaning between teeth with an interdental brush or floss.

How do I floss correctly?

Think of it as more moving a C on its side up and down than a sawing motion. You need to move the floss from cleaning the little collar of gum at the top of one tooth around to the other side to clean around the top of other tooth. Avoid digging in or sawing up and down too vigorously.

If you have big enough spaces between your teeth, consider trying an interdental brush which is almost like a tiny bottle brush. Again, with this the technique must be a gentle to-and-fro motion rather than a vigorous sawing. Remember to floss behind the very back teeth as well, as the gum can form a little flap behind the back molars, and this needs cleaning under as well.

Here is a great video demonstrating how to floss correctly and why you need to:

Can you floss if you have braces?

Absolutely! In fact, it is really important that you keep your teeth clean around the braces. Using floss tape can be challenging with braces, so ask your orthodontist or dentist about alternatives like interdental brushes. Whatever tool you choose to floss, just remember to be extra careful, slow and gentle around your braces and any elastics so that you don’t risk damaging them.

If you have questions about flossing, or aren’t sure how to help your children floss properly, remember to ask at your next appointment with Loock Dental, and your friendly dentist will be happy to demonstrate the proper technique and show you options other than floss tape which are available.

For more information on your oral hygiene, take a look at our previous blog post.

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Marguerite MacRobert

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