Sugary or carbohydrate-rich foods trigger a bacterial attack on tooth enamel, leading to demineralization. Over time, this process corrodes your dental enamel by leaching essential minerals. To safeguard your oral health and combat tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease, it’s crucial to maintain a good oral hygiene routine, including flossing.
- Should you floss before or after brushing?
- How to properly floss
- How often should you floss?
- How far should floss go into your gums?
- What are common mistakes while flossing?
- Should I use waxed or unwaxed floss?
- How long does it take to see a difference after flossing?
Should You Floss Before Or After Brushing?
Despite many people doing the latter, flossing before brushing is believed to be more effective and vice-versa. This is because flossing first removes plaque and food particles from between your teeth, which your toothbrush can then catch with its bristles.
That said, the most important thing is that you are brushing and flossing. A Delta Dental Oral Health and Well-Being Survey reported that only 41% of Americans floss at least once daily, and 20% never flossed.
How To Properly Floss
Proper flossing techniques are critical to effective teeth cleanings that remove plaque and avoid damaging your gums. Keep the five tips below in mind during your flossing sessions so you can optimize your teeth-cleaning experience.
- Wind about 18 inches of floss around the middle fingers of both your hands. Pinch the strand of floss between your thumbs and index fingers, leaving one or two inches between those two fingers. Guide the floss’ direction using your thumbs when flossing your upper teeth.
- Holding the floss, use your index fingers to direct dental floss properly when flossing your lower teeth.
- Glide (don’t pull) floss between your teeth in a zigzag motion. Do not snap or pull floss upward when it is between teeth.
- Floss gently and thoroughly, using the clean section of floss each time you move on to another pair of teeth.
- Discard used floss. Never try to “clean” old floss for reuse. Once used, dental floss loses its strength and remains coated with oral bacteria that negates the purpose of flossing.
How Often Should You Floss?
The American Dental Association recommends that you floss once a day. Also, you should be brushing your teeth twice a day, once in the morning and again before bed. This protects against plaque build-up without overdoing it and irritating your gums.
How Far Should Floss Go Into Your Gums?
It may seem practical to press deep into your gums when flossing to “thoroughly” remove food particles, but this can damage the gums. As a rule of thumb, you should never force floss to go deeper than it goes on its own. This is usually only around 2-3 millimeters below the gum line. Any more than this can lead to toothaches, gum pain, bleeding, and receding.
What Are Common Mistakes While Flossing?
Using Water Piks in Place of Floss
Water Piks, or oral irrigators, are hand-held devices that shoot streams of water at your teeth and gums. Although water piks can help wash food particles off the enamel and reduce the risk of gingivitis, they should not be used as substitutes for flossing. The force of the water stream is simply not powerful enough to push microscopic bacteria out from between teeth. Only dental floss can remove debris from food stuck between your teeth.
Preventing tooth decay not only includes brushing and flossing every day but also receiving professional dental cleanings and fluoride treatments every six months. Keeping your dental cleaning appointment minimizes your risk of tooth decay caused by unchecked demineralization while allowing your dentist to check for signs of gum diseases in their early stages.
Whether pressing too deep or fast into your gum with floss or flossing excessively throughout the day, it can lead to harmful side effects when you’re too harsh with your floss routine. Some of the most common signs that you’re “overdoing” your flossing routine include gum bleeding, swelling, and soreness, recession.
Conversely, you may be too brief or superficial with your flossing routine. If you’re not reaching the entirety of your teeth or are inconsistent in daily flossing, you’re more likely to experience a build-up with plaque, which may be seen or felt (a rough, fuzzy feeling) on the tooth surfaces and sides. Likewise, ineffective flossing leads to a higher risk of developing cavities.
Should I Use Waxed or Unwaxed Floss?
Although unwaxed, waxed, or monofilament dental floss is available, studies have revealed that it doesn’t make a difference if dental floss is waxed or unwaxed — both types of flosses work well to clean in-between your teeth.
How Long Does It Take To See A Difference After Flossing?
It’s never too late to begin flossing. Most people who start to floss regularly will see a positive change in their oral appearance and health within two weeks. Along with your teeth feeling cleaner and smoother, you may experience other benefits, such as eliminating bad breath and less pain from plaque buildup, contributing to gum disease (periodontitis).
Published on: January 13, 2016
Updated on: November 2, 2023