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Am I Flossing My Teeth the Right Way?

You may be surprised to learn that only 4 out of 10 adults floss their teeth daily. Are you one of them?

Proper teeth flossing is a fundamental part of maintaining good oral hygiene. Many people brush their teeth diligently, but they often overlook the importance of flossing.

If you have been interested in flossing but not sure if you're flossing correctly, don't worry. In this article, you'll find a detailed, step-by-step guide to help you properly floss your teeth and experience the advantages of a vibrant, healthy smile.

Key Takeaways

  •   Flossing is essential for good oral hygiene, along with regular brushing.
  •   Choose the right type of dental floss to suit your specific needs.
  •   Follow a step-by-step flossing guide for effective results.
  •   When you have braces, use a floss threader for proper cleaning.
  •   Consistent flossing offers benefits like preventing gum disease cavities and promoting overall oral and systemic health.

The Importance of Proper Teeth Flossing

The importance of proper teeth flossing cannot be overstated in the realm of oral hygiene.

Flossing plays a pivotal role in maintaining healthy teeth and gums by effectively removing plaque and food particles from the spaces between our teeth, where toothbrushes often cannot reach. By doing so it significantly reduces the risk of gum disease, cavities, and bad breath while also contributing to the longevity of dental work.

Beyond oral health, consistent and correct flossing has been linked to reducing the risk of systemic health issues like heart disease and diabetes, underscoring its broader significance in overall well-being.

Choosing the Right Type of Dental Floss

The first step in ensuring you're flossing your teeth correctly is selecting the right type of dental floss. There are multiple options to choose from:

  •   Nylon (Multifilament) Floss: This traditional floss is made of nylon or Teflon and comes in various flavours and thicknesses. It is an excellent choice for those with healthy gums and no special dental work.
  •   PTFE (Monofilament) Floss: Made of a single strand of material, PTFE floss slides more easily between teeth and is less likely to shred. It is a good option for people with tight spaces between their teeth.
  •   Waxed Floss: This floss has a wax coating, making it easier to slide between teeth. It is a good choice for people with crowded teeth.
  •   Unwaxed Floss: This floss is thin and can be harder to use, especially if you have tight contacts between your teeth. It is best for people with normal tooth spacing.
  •   Tape Floss: Tape floss, which is wider and flatter than regular floss, is ideal for those with larger gaps between their teeth.
  •   Super Floss: This type of floss is designed for people with braces, bridges, or dental implants. It has a stiff end for threading and a spongy component for cleaning between appliances.

Select the floss that best suits your individual needs, and consider consulting your dentist for guidance.

Step-by-Step Guide to Effective Teeth Flossing

Now that you've chosen the right dental floss, it's time to learn the proper technique for effective teeth flossing. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Preparation

Start with clean hands to avoid transferring additional bacteria to your mouth.

Tear off approximately 18 inches of dental floss. This length should provide enough floss for your entire mouth without reusing the same section.

Step 2: Flossing Technique
  •   Wrap the Floss: Wrap the floss around your middle fingers, ensuring there's roughly an inch of floss between them. Use your thumbs and forefingers to hold and control the floss.
  •   Gentle Entry: Gently slide the floss between your teeth, being careful not to snap or force it. If you have tight contacts, use a back-and-forth motion to ease the floss through.
  •   C-Shape Formation: Once the floss is between your teeth, form a C-shape around one tooth and gently glide it up and down. Be sure to reach below the gumline to remove plaque effectively.
  •   Repeat the Process: Repeat the C-shape formation and sliding for all of your teeth. Use a fresh section of floss for each segment to avoid spreading bacteria.
Step 3: Don't Forget Your Back Teeth

Pay extra attention to your molars and back teeth, as they are often overlooked but equally important.

Step 4: Rinse and Dispose

After flossing, rinse your mouth with water to eliminate any loosened debris, and then discard the used floss in the trash.

Step 5: Finish with Mouthwash

Finish your oral hygiene routine by using mouthwash to further eliminate bacteria and freshen your breath.

Flossing for Special Cases: Braces and Dental Work

Flossing can be a challenging task when you have braces, but it's essential to maintain proper oral hygiene during orthodontic treatment. Here's a step-by-step guide on the best way to floss with braces:

Step 1: Preparation

Gather your flossing tools, including dental floss, a floss threader, and possibly orthodontic wax.

Wash your hands thoroughly to ensure cleanliness during the process.

Step 2: Flossing Technique
  •   Use a Floss Threader: Thread a sufficient length of dental floss through the eye of the floss threader, creating a loop at one end.
  •   Insert the Threader: Delicately manoeuvre the pointed end of the floss threader beneath the wire of your braces, commencing from the upper part. It is vital to exercise caution to prevent any harm to the wires or brackets.
  •   Thread the Floss: Once the threader is under the wire, pull it through. Now, you have the floss running under the wire with two loose ends hanging from your braces.
  •   Floss Between Teeth: Hold the loose ends of the floss and gently guide it between two teeth. Be cautious not to snap the floss, which could potentially damage your braces.
  •   Form a 'C' Shape: Start by creating a 'C' shape with the dental floss around one tooth, like you would with regular flossing. Carefully slide it up and down, ensuring it reaches below the gumline to remove plaque and debris.
  •   Repeat the Process: For each set of teeth, repeat the threader and flossing steps. Use a new section of floss for each tooth to avoid spreading bacteria.
Step 3: Don't Forget Your Back Teeth

Pay special attention to your back teeth, molars, and premolars, as they can be easily overlooked.

Step 4: Rinse and Dispose

After flossing with braces, rinse your mouth thoroughly with water to remove any dislodged particles and floss debris.

Dispose of the used floss and floss threader in the trash.

Step 5: Finish with Mouthwash

Complete your oral hygiene routine by using a mouthwash to further eliminate bacteria and maintain fresh breath.

Flossing with braces may take a bit more time and patience, but it is essential for preventing plaque buildup, cavities, and gum problems during orthodontic treatment. Regular dental check-ups are crucial as well, as your orthodontist and dentist can provide guidance and ensure that your braces do not hinder your oral health.

The Benefits of Consistent and Correct Flossing

Proper and consistent flossing offers a host of benefits that extend beyond just clean teeth and gums:

  •   Reduced Risk of Gum Disease: Flossing removes plaque and debris, preventing gum disease and tooth loss.
  •   Prevention of Cavities: Flossing helps remove food particles and plaque between teeth, reducing the risk of cavities.
  •   Enhanced Freshness: Flossing eliminates trapped food particles, improving breath and overall oral hygiene.
  •   Prolonged Dental Work Lifespan: For those with dental work like crowns or bridges, consistent flossing can extend the lifespan of these restorations.
  •   Improved Overall Health: Regular flossing can help reduce the risk of gum disease and minimise the likelihood of systemic health issues like heart disease and diabetes.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Flossing may seem simple, but it's easy to make mistakes that can compromise its effectiveness. Some common errors to avoid are:

  •   Aggressive Flossing: When flossing, be gentle and avoid snapping the floss against your gums to prevent injury or damage.
  •   Skipping Days: Consistency is key. Daily flossing is strongly advised for optimal oral hygiene.
  •   Reusing Floss: Use a fresh section of floss for each segment to prevent the spreading of bacteria.
  •   Not Flossing the Back Teeth: Many people forget to floss their back teeth, but these areas are just as prone to plaque buildup as the front teeth.
  •   Flossing Too Quickly: Take your time to ensure you clean thoroughly between every tooth.
  •   Ignoring Special Cases: If you have braces or dental work, consult your dentist or orthodontist for specific instructions on flossing in these situations.

Expert Tips for Optimal Oral Health

  •   Use Fluoridated Toothpaste: Fluoride helps strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities. Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
  •   Mouthwash with Fluoride: Incorporate a mouthwash with fluoride into your routine for added protection against cavities.
  •   Regular Dental Check-Ups: It is vital to have regular dental check-ups and cleanings to prevent oral health issues.
  •   Balanced Diet: Maintain a well-rounded diet that includes an abundance of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains to promote your general health, including the health of your teeth and gums.
  •   Limit Sugary and Acidic Foods: Sugary & acidic foods have the potential to erode enamel and encourage the development of cavities. Consume these foods in moderation to safeguard your dental health.
  •   Stay Hydrated: Drinking water helps rinse away food particles and maintains a moist mouth, which is essential for preventing dry mouth and bad breath.
  •   Avoid Smoking and Tobacco: Smoking and the use of tobacco products can have detrimental effects on your oral health, elevating the risk of gum disease and oral cancer.

How often should I floss my teeth?

It is advisable to floss at least once a day. Establishing a daily flossing routine is crucial for effectively removing plaque and food debris from the spaces between your teeth and along the gum line. This practice plays a pivotal role in preventing dental problems like gum disease, tooth loss, gingivitis and cavities.

Should you floss before or after brushing?

Flossing before brushing is generally recommended.

Flossing before brushing helps dislodge food particles and plaque from the areas between your teeth and along the gum line, making it easier for your toothbrush to remove these contaminants during the brushing process. This approach ensures a more thorough cleaning and can be a more effective way to maintain good oral hygiene.

Does flossing make teeth whiter?

Flossing primarily contributes to better oral health by removing debris and preventing dental problems. While it can make your teeth appear cleaner and brighter by removing plaque buildup, it may not significantly whiten your teeth like professional teeth whitening treatments.

How many minutes should you floss?

Flossing should take about 2-3 minutes to ensure thorough cleaning. Take your time to floss each tooth properly, using a fresh section of floss for each pair of teeth.

Why do I bleed when I floss?

Bleeding during flossing is often a sign of gum inflammation or gum disease (gingivitis). It occurs because of the presence of plaque and bacteria along the gumline, leading to irritation. Consistent flossing and regular dental check-ups can help improve gum health and reduce bleeding. If bleeding persists, it is essential to consult a dentist immediately.


When you floss your teeth, it's important to do it gently - moving the floss up and down along the sides of each tooth. Avoid just pulling the floss back and forth, as this can irritate the gumline and cause bleeding. The goal of flossing is to clean the areas that a toothbrush can't reach, so take care to be thorough but gentle. Remember, healthy gums shouldn't bleed when you floss!
Gum health is crucial, but improper flossing can lead to bleeding gums, gum recession, and gum disease. To avoid these issues, it is recommended to be gentle while flossing and move the floss away from the gums.
Flossing to the extent that your gums bleed can cause damage. If you're not flossing regularly, initial mild bleeding for seven to ten days is typical. Prolonged bleeding could indicate gum disease or excessive flossing pressure.
Gaps between your teeth can be a sign of gingivitis or gum problems. There are several reasons why gaps may form between your teeth, one of which is poor flossing technique. However, if you floss correctly, it is unlikely that flossing will cause gaps.
Loose teeth after flossing or wearing braces may indicate untreated gum disease or poor oral hygiene. However, having a wobbly tooth does not necessarily mean you have severe underlying gum disease. Maintaining excellent dental hygiene is crucial to prevent the advancement of any oral health concerns concerning your teeth and gums. In some cases, loose teeth may eventually result in the loss of permanent teeth.
A recent study found that flossing before brushing with a fluoride toothpaste is more effective at removing interdental plaque compared to flossing after brushing. It's possible that this might be unexpected for some people. Additionally, flossing before brushing results in greater fluoride retention between teeth.
Make the most of the floss's thinness and flexibility by sliding it 2-3 millimetres beneath your gum line to eliminate bacteria that can cause gum disease and harm your teeth.
Maintaining good oral health requires brushing and flossing after meals to prevent bacterial plaque buildup that can harm your teeth. However, if you have consumed acidic foods or drinks, it is advisable to wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. This is because brushing immediately after acidic consumption may erode the enamel on your teeth and cause more damage than good.
It's true that dental floss has some disadvantages. Certain areas of the mouth can be difficult to reach, and if home flossing is not done correctly or regularly, minor bleeding may occur, in addition to gum sensitivity or irritation.
Flossing does not have a whitening effect on your teeth. However, it helps to maintain white teeth by preventing the accumulation of plaque. Plaque buildup can cause tooth decay and discolouration, which is why flossing is important. Even flossers marketed as "whitening" do not bleach the enamel of your teeth but rather keep them clean and shiny.


Flossing your teeth the right way is not only about maintaining a beautiful smile but also about safeguarding your overall health. By choosing the right type of dental floss, following a step-by-step guide to effective flossing, and being aware of common mistakes to avoid, you can significantly improve your oral health.

Keep in mind that the commitment to correct flossing today can result in a lifetime of improved dental health, benefiting both your teeth and gums. Make it part of your daily routine, and you'll reap the rewards for years to come!

To schedule a personalised dental consultation, secure your appointment at Hope Dental and Esthetic Clinic in Noida today!

Dr. Mimansa Bhoj

BDS, MDS (Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon)

University Gold medalist

About the Author

Dr. Mimansa is a highly accomplished oral and maxillofacial surgeon with a wealth of experience in her field. With a strong academic background and numerous gold medals, she has treated over 5000 patients for various oral and maxillofacial problems. Dr. Mimansa has practiced in different parts of India and has learned from the best in the field, making her an expert in OMFS and Dentistry. Known for her friendly and empathetic approach, she believes in providing treatments with care and compassion to heal her patients. With academic achievements, multiple scientific publications, and her current role as an Associate Professor, Dr. Mimansa is dedicated to providing the highest quality of care. She has also established a safe space, Hope Dental and Esthetic Clinic, during the pandemic, ensuring the utmost safety for patients while providing dental and medical treatments.