Flossing does more than just dislodge pieces of food that are caught in your teeth. It helps you reach surfaces between the teeth that brushing can’t cover and dislodge plaque.

If your gums are healthy, you should floss when you brush, after breakfast and at bedtime. If you have periodontal disease, you should brush and floss after lunch as well. Here’s how to do it correctly:

  1. Take a length of floss about 18 inches long. Wrap the ends three or four times around your index fingers to secure them.
  2. Press your thumbs against your index fingers to hold the floss loops in place. Extend your middle fingers to press against the rest of the floss so there is a short length of taut floss between them. Start at one end of your upper jaw and work toward the center.
  3. Open your mouth only slightly, so your cheeks are not taut against the teeth. Insert the taut length of floss behind the rearmost upper molar, until it touches the gum. If your gum bleeds or hurts, you are probably pressing too hard. Pull the ends of the floss forward, until parts of the inner and outer surfaces of the tooth are covered. Rub the floss two or three times up and down the tooth surface—not back and forth—to dislodge plaque.
  4. Insert the floss between your last molar and your next tooth. Pull the floss gently back and forth until it passes between the two teeth. Press the floss against one tooth and rub it up and down several times. Next, press the floss against the other tooth, and repeat the process.
  5. Move forward to the next space between your teeth and continue until you reach your central incisors. Then go to the rear molar on the other side and floss from there to the center.
  6. If the floss begins to fray, or if plaque builds up heavily upon it, you can re lease a loop from one index finger and take up the slack on the other.
  7. Floss the teeth of the lower jaw in the same way, starting at the rearmost molar at each end and working toward the center.
  8. Rinse thoroughly to flush away the loosened plaque. If the debris is heavy, you may find it helpful to brush the teeth first, or to use a mechanical irrigator.

If your teeth are so tightly spaced that you cannot readily force the floss between them, you can use a floss threader, a device that enables you to insert one end of the floss directly through the spaces between your teeth. The floss threader is also utilized to get under fixed bridges where the spaces between the teeth are connected. And if you have difficulty holding the ends of the floss with your fingers, you can place it in a more easily held floss holder.

Here at the Dental Partners of 5th Avenue, we do our best as family dentists of NYC to keep our patients informed on their daily dental care!