What You Need to Know About How to Floss Properly

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The Lowdown On Flossing

Although there has been some recent scientific controversy concerning the benefits of flossing versus not flossing, most of the nation’s dentists still tout flossing importance to healthy teeth. Most American Dental Association (ADA) members—and even WebMD.com—continue to praise flossing benefits as an important method of keeping your teeth and gums healthy.

Should You Floss Before or After Brushing?

Some ADA dentists recommend flossing before brushing, since flossing is not a “fun” process. They believe some people will forego flossing if they wait until after brushing. Some dentists believe you’re better off using floss after brushing to remove food debris between teeth that your toothbrush bristles simply cannot reach. If you use toothpaste with fluoride, many dentists recommend flossing after brushing to give the fluoride an opportunity to penetrate between your teeth to prevent cavities effectively.

How Many Times a Day Should I Floss?

An ADA spokesperson states, “Before, after, morning or night actually doesn’t matter. As long as you do it at least once every day . . .” It appears most dentists don’t care when you floss, if you do it at least once in every 24-hour period.

Therefore, the official ADA position, is that you should brush at least twice per day and floss at least once a day. Why? Since plaque forms in around 24 hours, daily flossing retards plaque formation and removes potentially harmful bacteria.

How to Floss Your Teeth Properly

Once you commit to flossing your teeth, be sure you’re doing it properly. Here’s how.

  • Unroll about 18 inches of floss and wrap it around your index fingers or thumbs.
  • Slide the floss up to your gum line.
  • Wrap it around each tooth in the shape of the letter “C” and pull it down (for upper teeth) or up (bottom teeth).

Unfortunately, only around 15 percent of Americans floss daily, where flossing is promoted heavily. Many tell their dentists they floss more frequently than they really do. If you wonder whether waxed or unwaxed floss is better and more effective, you’ll be happy to learn that it really doesn’t matter, as both types get the job done. Therefore, you can use the type you prefer without fear of the other type working better.

However, be aware that “string” floss, waxed or unwaxed, works better than the dental picks that you get at your local pharmacy. It’s been proven dental picks cannot reach the so-called “contact points” between your teeth that bacteria seek to grow and prosper.

Dentists also believe that daily flossing promotes better gum health. According to the Centers for Disease Control, their studies display that there is a close relationship between gum health and your overall quality of health, particularly cardio health.

Author; Dr Jeremy Rourke, B.D.S. Hons. Syd Univ. Dental Surgeon

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My name is Jeremy Rourke. I’m part of a family of dentists with my father, brother, cousin and nephew also being dentists. I won a University of Sydney Dental Alumni prize for being the top student in my year and graduated with Honours in 1971. I have been a Registered dentist for over 40 years. In that time I have created a few “firsts” in my efforts to stay ahead.

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