Should I Floss?
Plaque is a sticky layer of
material containing bacteria that accumulates on
teeth, including places where toothbrushes can't
reach. This can lead to gum disease. The best
way to get rid of plaque is to brush and floss
your teeth carefully every day. A toothbrush
cleans the tops and sides of your teeth. Dental
floss cleans between them. Some people use
waterpicks, but floss is the best choice.
Why should I
plaque and debris that adhere to teeth and gums
in between teeth, polishes tooth surfaces and
controls bad breath. By flossing your teeth
daily, you increase the chances of keeping your
teeth a lifetime and decrease your chance of
having periodontal (gum) disease and tooth
Flossing is the
single most important weapon against plaque,
perhaps more important than the toothbrush. Many
people just don't spend enough time flossing and
many have never been taught to floss properly.
When you visit your dentist or hygienist, ask to
Which type of
floss should I use?
Dental floss comes
in many forms: waxed and unwaxed, flavored and
unflavored, wide and regular. Wide floss, or
dental tape, may be helpful for people with a
lot of bridge work. Tapes are usually
recommended when the spaces between teeth are
wide. They all clean and remove plaque about the
same. Waxed floss might be easier to slide
between tight teeth or tight restorations.
However, the unwaxed floss makes a squeaking
sound to let you know your teeth are clean.
Bonded unwaxed floss does not fray as easily as
regular unwaxed floss but does tear more than
How should I
There are two
flossing methods: the spool method and the loop
method. The spool method is suited for those
with manual dexterity. Take an 18-inch piece of
floss and wind the bulk of the floss lightly
around the middle finger. (Don't cut off your
finger's circulation!) Wind the rest of the
floss similarly around the same finger of the
opposite hand. This finger takes up the floss as
it becomes soiled or frayed. Maneuver the floss
between teeth with your index fingers and
thumbs. Don't pull it down hard against your
gums or you will hurt them. Don't rub it side to
side as if you're shining shoes. Bring the floss
up and down several times, forming a "C" shape
around the tooth and being sure to go below the
The loop method is
suited for children or adults with less nimble
hands, poor muscular coordination or arthritis.
Take an 18-inch piece of floss and make it into
a circle. Tie it securely with three knots.
Place all of the fingers, except the thumb,
within the loop. Use your index fingers to guide
the floss through the lower teeth, and use your
thumbs to guide the floss through the upper
teeth, going below the gumline and forming a "C"
on the side of the tooth.
should I floss?
At least once a
day. To give your teeth a good flossing, spend
at least two or three minutes.
What are floss
You may prefer a
prethreaded flosser or floss holder, which often
looks like a little hacksaw. Flossers are handy
for people with limited dexterity, for those who
are just beginning to floss or for caretakers
who are flossing someone else's teeth.
Is it safe to
In a pinch,
toothpicks are effective at removing food
between teeth, but for daily cleaning of plaque
between teeth, floss is recommended. When you
use a toothpick, don't press too hard, as you
can break off the end and lodge it in your gums.
Do I need a
waterpick (irrigating device)?
waterpicks as a substitute for brushing and
flossing. But they are effective around
orthodontic braces, which retain food in areas
where a toothbrush cannot reach. However, they
do not remove plaque. Waterpicks are frequently
recommended by dentists for persons with gum
disease; solutions containing antibacterial
agents like chlorhexidine or tetracycline,
available through a dentist's prescription, can
be added to the reservoir in these cases.