A photo of a reusable floss and container

Struggling with flossing? Eliminate the guesswork with our expert guide to flossing correctly for better oral health. Learn essential techniques, the best tools, and how often you need to floss to keep your teeth and gums in top shape.

Key Takeaways

  • Master proper flossing techniques, such as the C-Shape method, to effectively remove plaque and food particles, paying special attention to not harm the gums and ensuring thorough cleaning for different dental scenarios like braces, crowns, and bridges.

  • Choose the right type of floss according to personal dental needs, considering various options such as nylon, PTFE, biodegradable floss, and aids like floss picks and water flossers to cater to accessibility and environmental preferences.

  • Maintain a daily flossing routine, recommended by dental associations, to prevent gum disease and cavities, with a preference for flossing before brushing, and seek guidance from dental professionals to ensure effective and correct flossing practices.

The Art of Flossing: Techniques and Tips

Illustration of dental floss being used in the C-Shape technique (source Colgate)

Becoming proficient in flossing techniques can dramatically improve your oral health. The first step is to equip yourself with approximately 18 inches of floss, which should be wound around each middle finger, leaving an inch or two to work with. But what’s the key to effective plaque removal? The C-Shape technique is the solution.

This technique involves gently sliding the floss up and down between your teeth, creating a C shape at the gum line. Making sure each side of each tooth is flossed with a clean section of the floss helps prevent reinserting bacteria that could cause bleeding or other problems.

The C-Shape Technique

The C-Shape technique is a proven method for effective plaque removal. The floss must be curved around the side of the tooth and moved gently up and down along its side. But what about the gums, you ask?

During this process, take care not to snap the floss onto the gums. This helps clean beneath the gumline without injuring the gums, ensuring a thorough and gentle cleaning process.

Flossing with Braces

If you’re wearing braces, flossing might feel overwhelming. But fret not! With the help of tools such as floss threaders and orthodontic floss, you can effectively clean around the wires and brackets. A floss threader can simplify the flossing process by threading the floss behind the wire of braces.

Orthodontic floss, stiffer at the ends, enables easier threading beneath the main wire of the braces without additional tools. The technique involves sliding the floss up and down along the wire and then between the teeth and gums to dislodge plaque and trapped food particles.

Flossing Around Dental Crowns and Bridges

Good oral hygiene around dental crowns and bridges is paramount to prevent decay and ensure these dental appliances last longer. A floss threader is used with the ‘needle and thread’ technique to guide floss through the constricted areas around dental crowns and bridges.

Selecting the appropriate type of floss, like dental tape for wider gaps or specially designed super floss for bridges, is key to effectively clean around dental crowns and bridges.

An 18-inch piece of floss, threaded through a floss threader, is used to clean beneath the dental bridge, moving from the cheek side to the tongue side.

Choosing the Right Floss for Your Needs

Different types of floss (Source SouthSide Dental)

Dental floss comes in various types including thread floss, waxed and unwaxed floss, and tape floss, catering to different dental needs. Thread floss, usually made from nylon, comes in both waxed and unwaxed versions. While waxed floss is easier to slide between teeth and less likely to fray, unwaxed floss is better for absorbing food particles.

However, if you are environmentally conscious and prefer eco-friendly products, biodegradable and natural floss options made from silk and waxed with vegan candelilla wax are available. For children or those with special dental needs, soft and flexible floss is recommended to make the process comfortable and effective.

Nylon vs. PTFE Floss

In the realm of dental floss, nylon and PTFE are two commonly encountered materials. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Nylon floss, available in both waxed and unwaxed versions, is designed to fit tight spaces but may shred or break more easily.

On the other hand, PTFE floss, less prone to shredding, is made from the same material as Gore-Tex and offers a smoother experience when sliding between teeth. It’s particularly suitable for those with crowded teeth, although there are safety considerations to take into account.

Biodegradable Floss

Biodegradable floss offers a green alternative to conventional dental floss. It’s an excellent choice for those who are environmentally conscious and want to reduce their carbon footprint while maintaining oral hygiene. But does it work as well as standard floss?

Yes, it does! Biodegradable floss is just as effective in removing food particles and plaque between your teeth. It’s a great way to keep your teeth clean and your conscience clear!

Floss Picks and Water Flossers

Floss picks and water flossers are tools designed to assist individuals with the flossing process. Floss sticks are most effective when the floss is tightly wound, and ‘Y’ shaped floss holders assist in accessing difficult areas in the mouth. Floss picks offer a multifunctional cleaning tool combining a floss section with a pick or soft brush on the opposite side.

However, floss picks may require multiple picks to completely floss the mouth, increasing overall costs. They may also be less effective for individuals with tightly spaced teeth.

Alternatively, water flossers, which use pulsating water streams to clean between teeth and along the gumline, are advantageous for those with braces or dental bridges. But remember, they should not replace traditional flossing altogether.

Flossing Frequency and Timing

dental, toothpaste, toothbrush

The American Dental Association and the Canadian Dental Association recommend flossing at least once a day. Flossing before bedtime is particularly beneficial as it reduces the risk of cavities and gum disease by removing plaque and food particles before a long period of inactivity.

Creating a flossing routine by doing it at a consistent time each day, such as morning, after meals, or night, can enhance the effectiveness of your flossing practice. For children, it’s recommended to floss for 2 to 3 minutes each session to maintain proper oral hygiene.

Daily Flossing: A Must for Dental Health

Daily flossing is essential in preventing gum disease and promoting dental health. Regular flossing helps prevent the buildup of plaque, which can harden into tartar and increase the risk of gum disease. Reducing the risk of cavities by removing hidden food particles and plaque buildup between the teeth is another benefit of daily flossing.

While flossing more than once per day can irritate and sometimes damage sensitive gum tissue, flossing only once daily is recommended. Floss picks can also assist in fighting gingivitis by disrupting bacteria between teeth, similar to traditional floss.

Flossing Before or After Brushing?

One common question is whether it’s better to floss before or after brushing. While both have their benefits, experts recommend flossing before brushing as the most effective sequence for oral hygiene.

Flossing prior to brushing has several benefits:

  • It helps to loosen food particles and plaque, which can then be more effectively removed during brushing.

  • It can lead to a cleaner mouth.

  • It provides an additional layer of protection against tooth decay.

Flossing Challenges and Solutions

Like any other routine, flossing has its own set of challenges. These can range from using improper techniques such as flossing too quickly or applying too much pressure, which can damage the gums and reduce effectiveness, to establishing a daily flossing habit.

Individuals with certain health conditions like diabetes or those who experience discomfort while flossing should consult with their dentist for personalized advice. Dental professionals play a crucial role in overcoming barriers to flossing such as lack of awareness, and they should ensure patients are informed about flossing’s role in overall health.

Dealing with Bleeding Gums

Bleeding gums can be a common issue for those new to flossing. However, some bleeding is normal and should clear up in about a week of regular flossing. Over-aggressive flossing can cause bleeding gums and other dental health issues, so it’s important to floss gently.

Tartar buildup along the gum line can lead to gum disease, which may cause gums to bleed. Regular flossing can help prevent the buildup of tartar and maintain healthy gums.

Flossing with Limited Dexterity

For individuals with limited dexterity, flossing can be a challenge. However, tools like floss picks and water flossers can assist in maintaining proper oral hygiene. Floss picks are particularly easy to use for those with impaired motor skills because they have a handle that provides a comfortable grip.

Floss holders represent an effective alternative for those with limited manual dexterity, eliminating the need to manipulate traditional floss between fingers. Water flossers are another great option, as they are easier to operate, require less precision, and can effectively reduce gum inflammation.

Flossing for Kids: Establishing Healthy Habits Early

Illustration of children flossing

Encouraging flossing habits in children from an early age is key to instilling healthy routines and ensuring lifelong dental health. Collaboration between dental professionals and schools can greatly benefit children’s oral health by promoting proper dental hygiene methods.

Children should start flossing as soon as they have two teeth that touch, usually around the age of 2 to 3. By age 10 or 11, children are usually ready to take over flossing themselves, using appropriate tools for dental care.

When to Start Flossing

Understanding the right time to start flossing is crucial in a child’s journey towards dental health. Children should start flossing when their teeth begin to fit closely together, which can occur between the ages of two and six. The specific time to start flossing is when a child’s two teeth touch, usually around ages 2 to 3.

Introducing flossing early, as soon as the last two molars touch around 2 or 2 ½ years old, aids in establishing flossing as part of a child’s daily routine. Parents should supervise their children’s flossing until they reach 8 to 10 years of age to ensure they are using the proper technique.

Making Flossing Fun for Kids

Adding a fun element to flossing can motivate children to stick to a regular flossing routine. Flavored floss can make the flossing experience more appealing for children, promoting fresh breath. Letting children choose their own floss from an assortment of colors, styles, and flavors can create excitement and independence regarding dental care.

Incorporating imaginative play, such as pretending to fight cavity-causing villains while flossing, or using music during flossing sessions can make the activity more fun. Dental apps that gamify brushing and flossing can turn daily routines into exciting challenges that kids look forward to completing.

Parents who floss alongside their children set a positive example and help the kids learn correct techniques through mimicry and shared activities.

The Role of Dental Professionals in Flossing Education

Dental professionals hold a significant responsibility in teaching patients the correct methods of flossing and addressing their concerns. Regular dental check-ups, as recommended every six months, are crucial for maintaining oral health and preventing dental complications before they arise. Dental health is integral to overall health, with poor oral hygiene contributing to serious conditions such as:

  • cardiovascular disease

  • diabetes

  • respiratory infections

  • pregnancy complications By offering a wide range of dental services, these professionals ensure that patients receive the best possible care for their oral health needs.

Dental professionals, including those in cosmetic dentistry, emphasize these risks to patients to highlight the importance of good oral hygiene and the need for proper dental treatment, including oral surgery when necessary.

During dental and dental hygiene appointments, it’s an opportune time for dental professionals to engage with patients about changes in oral health and to provide individualized guidance on flossing techniques. The intersection of comprehensive personal dental care and professional oversight ensures early detection of dental issues, reinforcing the need for education on proper flossing routines from dental professionals and the importance of regular dental cleanings.

Learning from Your Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists play a crucial role in educating patients on the proper use of dental floss and its benefits for periodontal health. They provide personalized instructions and demonstrations of flossing techniques to improve patient compliance and oral hygiene.

Dentists, including a Calgary dentist, dental specialists, and dental hygienists working in a dental office should act as role models by practicing recommended oral self-care, such as regular flossing. This encourages their patients, including those who visit an oral surgeon, to follow suit and maintain a consistent flossing routine. The dental team plays a crucial role in promoting oral health.

Asking Questions and Addressing Concerns

Patients should be encouraged to ask their healthcare provider, such as dental professionals, any queries about flossing or general oral hygiene to enhance their dental care routines. Dental hygienists can support patients by providing guidance on the correct flossing techniques, ensuring individuals are equipped to maintain their oral health effectively.

Health education programs are essential in enhancing the public’s knowledge about dental floss usage, and dental hygienists play a crucial role in these efforts. Open communication with your dental hygienist can not only help you in understanding the importance of flossing but also in developing a good flossing routine.


Flossing is more than just a dental chore; it’s an integral part of maintaining overall dental health. With a variety of flossing products available, you can find the one that suits your needs the best. Whether it’s nylon floss, PTFE floss, or biodegradable options, the importance lies in the consistent practice of flossing daily.

Fighting gum disease, preventing cavities, and maintaining a fresh breath are just a few benefits of regular flossing. So, why wait? Start your flossing journey today, and remember, as with any new habit, consistency is key. Happy flossing!

Frequently Asked Questions

When do kids need to start flossing?

Children should start flossing as soon as they have two teeth that touch, usually around the age of 2 to 3, with an adult’s help. By age 10 or 11, children should be able to floss on their own.

Should you floss before or after brushing?

You should floss before brushing to remove interdental plaque effectively, followed by brushing with fluoride toothpaste for the best results in preventing tooth decay and gum disease.

How often should you floss?

You should floss at least once a day to prevent plaque build-up and gum disease. Flossing during your next brush helps remove hard-to-reach plaque, bacteria, and food particles.

What does flossing do?

Flossing cleans between the teeth where brushing can’t reach, disrupting the formation of dental plaque before it turns into calculus. It helps maintain oral hygiene and overall health.

What is the C-Shape flossing technique?

The C-Shape flossing technique involves wrapping the floss in a C shape around each tooth to effectively remove plaque. It is the recommended method for thorough cleaning.