Young woman flossing her teeth , close up , isolated on white background

Basics from your Dental Hygienist: Flossing

Somehow, no one wants to make friends with Floss, but flossing is one of the most (if not, THE most) important step of oral hygiene. Sure, you brush twice or more per day, and even do a mouthwash, but what about the food impacted between your teeth? What happens then?

1. Some Bacteria in your mouth starts breaking down the food, creating acids that weaken your enamel. This demineralized enamel area is now the beginning of a cavity.

2. Other type of bacteria in your mouth, creates a byproduct from the carbohydrates and sugars stuck between your teeth, this byproduct is call plaque.

3. You will have an unpleasant smell in your mouth.

4. If plaque stays between your teeth and isn’t remove on time, it will affect your gum and bone level, therefore your teeth will loose attachment and support.

These four things could be preventable by simple flossing at least once a day, preferable before bedtime. Why? Because since you won’t be talking or chewing while sleeping, the salivary flow slows down and bacteria starts working against your favor.

If floss intimidates you, you don’t have great dexterity, or you simple hate it, there are many other products that could be use. Ask your hygienist what product suits you best.

Here is a list of Interdental floss and aids to help you achieve optimal oral hygiene.

String Floss or Dental Tape (waxed or unwaxed)

Wind 16 to 18 inches of floss around middle fingers of each hand. Pinch floss between thumbs and index fingers, leaving a one to two inch length in between. Use thumbs to direct floss between upper teeth.Use index fingers to guide floss between contacts of the lower teeth. Gently guide floss between the teeth by using a zig-zag motion. DO NOT SNAP FLOSS BETWEEN YOUR TEETH. Contour floss around the side of the tooth. Slide floss up and down against the tooth surface and under the gum line. Floss each tooth thoroughly with a clean section of floss. Dental Flosser (holder or Plastic dental floss toothpicks)

Hold the flosser handle firmly and point the flossing tip at an angle facing the area you want to floss first (either top teeth or bottom teeth). Guide the floss gently between two teeth, and be sure to avoid snapping or popping the floss. Use the same zigzag motion that you would us with standard floss. Bend the floss around each tooth and slide it under the gum line and along each tooth surface.

Floss Threader or Super Floss (orthodontic floss)

If you wear braces or other dental appliances such as a permanent retainer or have a dental bridge, you can use special orthodontic floss, which has a stiff end that can be easily threaded under the main wire or crown of your bridge. You can also purchase a floss threader, which is a flexible device with a pick on one end and a loop on the other. To use a floss threader, place an 18-inch piece of the floss of your choice through the loop. Then insert the pointed end of the flosser under the wire and pull through so the floss is under thewire. Once you have the floss in place, follow the same principles of standard floss.

Interdental Brush

Interdental brush should only be use between your teeth if you have an embrasure, that is, an open space between your teeth where your gum is not longer covering. Interdental Brushes come in different size to suit your need best. Insert the brush gently between your teeth. Do not force the brush into a space; work it in gently. Move the interdental brush full length back and forth a few times.

Water Pick

Water pick instructions on how to set up the machine depends on the manufacturing company, but the technique should always be the same. Start with the back teeth and pause briefly between teeth, aiming the tip just above the gumline at a 90 degree angle.

Ideally, floss or any type of interdental floss should be done at least once a day, but baby steps might work best. Set a goal, start flossing every two days, then every other day, and in no time you will floss every day. Soon enough, you won’t be able to go on your day without flossing. Good luck!


Jennifer Pettit RDH,



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