Flossing technique tips, pointers, and explanations.

A) How often do you need to floss?

Flossing once a day should be enough to keep you in good oral health. You need to understand, however, that the key to this statement is this. When you do floss, you must do a thorough job.

Some people confuse frequency with effectiveness.

Every dentist knows a patient who says they floss their teeth every time they brush (three times a day) but when the dentist looks in their mouth they would never guess it.

Many times the problem lies in the fact that although the person does floss frequently, none of their individual efforts involves using an effective technique. As a result, their oral health suffers.

B) When is the best time to floss?

The absolute best time to floss your teeth is during that part of your day when you have enough time to floss thoroughly.

Flossing at bedtime can be a good idea.

One could make the case that it's best to clean your mouth before you go to bed at night. That's because when we sleep, the flow of saliva from our salivary glands decreases, thus minimizing the benefits that it provides in combating the effects of bacteria and their byproducts on our teeth and gums.

If, however, you find that you simply do not have the time, or the inclination, to thoroughly floss before going to bed, and at another time of day you do, then hands down go with the latter.

C) Should you floss your teeth before or after you brush?

It doesn't really matter which you do first, brush or floss. There is, however, a school of thought that suggests that you should do your flossing first.

The idea is that your brushing activities can help to remove items (i.e. plaque and debris) that your flossing efforts have dislodged but are still harbored near your teeth.

(While we don't feel strongly one way or another about this issue, we do think that it's a good idea to swish your mouth out with water or mouthwash after you've flossed.)

D) How long does it take to floss?

The amount of time that it takes for you to floss your teeth will simply depend on your level of skill.

You can expect that when you're first learning that each session will be tedious and frustrating. As time goes by, however, your skills should improve and things will go much more quickly. At that point, it will probably only take a minute or two of your time.

Look for other things to do when you floss.

As you become better at it, there should be a point where you find that flossing your teeth becomes second natured. For example, you'll probably find that you no longer need to look in a mirror when doing it.

Try to come up with some other activity you can do at the same time. This can be a time saver as well as a way of ingraining this habit into your daily schedule. Many people watch TV while they floss their teeth.

E) Can using mouthwash replace flossing?

No, we are sorry to report to you that it can't. Here's an explanation why.

F) What kind of dental floss should you use?

Dental floss dispensers.

There's no shortage of different types of flosses to choose from. This includes waxed, unwaxed, string, ribbon, flavored, unflavored, and teflon, just to name a few. Most studies seem to suggest that you can be equally effective using any one of them.

We would argue the case that the best kind is the one you find easiest to use. (That's because the easier the process is, the more likely it will be that you do it.)

Here are some characteristics and applications for some of the different types.

  • If the spaces between your teeth are large, dental tape or yarn-like floss can make a good choice.
  • Waxed and teflon flosses tend to be easier to use if the contacts between your teeth are tight.
  • Unwaxed floss can make a good basic, all-purpose choice.

G) Flossing aids and tools.

You may wonder if floss holders, flossing handles, or electric or pre-threaded flossers offer any benefit.

We'd expect that most dentists and dental hygienists would tell you that they personally feel that they can do a better job when cleaning "by hand." At least a part of this opinion would probably be based on their belief that they have greater control in manipulating the floss and contouring it against the side of their teeth when working by hand.

Beyond that, if using some type of flossing aid means that you will floss whereas otherwise you wouldn't, then yes, by all means, use one.

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