how to use dental floss

Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential for overall health. One vital aspect of oral care is using dental floss correctly. Dental floss helps remove plaque and food particles from areas that a toothbrush cannot reach. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide on how to use dental floss effectively, along with frequently asked questions and their answers related to dental flossing.

Why is Dental Flossing Important?

Dental Flossing for Optimal Oral Hygiene:
Proper flossing helps remove plaque and debris from areas that toothbrushes cannot reach, such as between teeth and along the gumline. It helps prevent the buildup of plaque, which can lead to cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.

Preventing Plaque Build-up

Plaque is formed by bacteria and food particles that combine to create a sticky film on teeth. If plaque is not removed regularly, it hardens into tartar, which can only be removed by a dental professional. Flossing is crucial for preventing plaque accumulation and maintaining a healthy mouth.

Types of Dental Floss

Various types of dental floss are available, catering to different preferences and oral conditions. Here are a few common types:

Traditional Wax Floss

This type of floss is made of nylon or silk threads coated with wax. The wax makes it easier to glide between teeth and prevents fraying. Traditional wax floss is suitable for most individuals and comes in different flavors.

Unwaxed Floss

Unwaxed floss is made of the same materials as waxed floss but lacks the wax coating. It is thinner and may be more suitable for people with tighter gaps between their teeth. However, it may be prone to fraying.

Dental Tape

Dental tape is broader and flatter than traditional floss. Some people find it more comfortable to use, especially if they have sensitive gums. It is wider and covers a larger surface area, making it ideal for individuals with wider gaps between their teeth.

Floss Picks

Floss picks consist of a small handle with a short length of floss stretched between two prongs. These devices provide convenience and are particularly handy for people who struggle with traditional flossing techniques. However, they may not be as effective in reaching certain areas as traditional floss.

How to Choose the Right Dental Floss

Choosing the right dental floss is essential for effective flossing. Consider the following factors when selecting the appropriate floss for your oral health needs:

Gap size between your teeth

If you have wider spaces or gaps between your teeth, dental tape or waxed floss may be more suitable. For tighter gaps, unwaxed floss or floss picks can work better.

Special conditions

If you have braces, bridges, or dental implants, you may require specialized flossing techniques and tools. Consult your dentist for specific recommendations.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Use Dental Floss Properly

Flossing may seem challenging for beginners, but with practice and the correct technique, it becomes easier and more effective. Follow this step-by-step guide for optimal dental flossing:

Step 1: Cut an Appropriate Length of Floss

Begin by cutting a piece of floss that is approximately 18 to 24 inches long. This length allows for a fresh section of floss to be used for each tooth.

Step 2: Wind the Ends of the Floss

Wrap each end of the floss around your middle fingers, leaving a gap of about 1-2 inches between them. This allows you to use your index fingers and thumbs to control the floss.

Step 3: Gently Slide the Floss Between Teeth

Hold the floss firmly and guide it gently between your teeth using a back-and-forth motion. Avoid snapping the floss into the gums, as it may cause trauma.

Step 4: Curve the Floss Around the Tooth

Once the floss reaches the gumline, curve it into a C-shape against one tooth. Slide the floss gently up and down along the side of the tooth, making sure to go beneath the gumline.

Step 5: Clean the Gumline

Move the floss up and down a few times, removing any plaque or debris from the gumline. Repeat this process for each tooth, using a clean section of floss.

Step 6: Repeat the Process for Each Tooth

Continue the flossing process, using a fresh section of floss for each tooth. Remember to reach the back teeth and pay extra attention to any areas where teeth touch.

Frequently Asked Questions about Dental Flossing

Q 1: How often should I floss my teeth?
Answer: It is recommended to floss your teeth at least once a day.

FQ 2: Should I floss before or after brushing?
Answer: The order doesn’t matter as long as both flossing and brushing are done thoroughly. Some prefer flossing first to remove debris, allowing toothpaste to reach between teeth.

Q 3: Can I reuse dental floss?
Answer: No, dental floss should not be reused. Using a fresh section of floss for each tooth prevents spreading bacteria.

Q 4: Is it normal for my gums to bleed while flossing?
Answer: Occasional bleeding may occur if you are new to flossing or if you have gum disease. If bleeding persists, consult your dentist.

Q 5: Can dental floss replace brushing?
Answer: No, dental floss cannot replace brushing. Both are essential for maintaining optimal oral hygiene.

Q 6: Should I avoid flossing if I have braces?
Answer: No, flossing is crucial, especially for people with braces. Use specialized floss threaders or orthodontic floss to clean between the teeth and wires.

Q 7: How long should I floss?
Answer: Take your time while flossing, ensuring you clean thoroughly between each tooth. It typically takes around 2 to 3 minutes to floss properly.

Q 8: Can children use dental floss?
Answer: Children can start using dental floss once their teeth touch each other. However, parental supervision and assistance may be necessary until they develop the dexterity to floss independently.

Q 9: Is it necessary to floss if I use a mouthwash?
Answer: Yes, mouthwash is a valuable addition to your oral hygiene routine, but it cannot replace the mechanical action of flossing.

Q 10: Can dental floss help with bad breath?
Answer: Yes, flossing removes food particles and plaque, which are common causes of bad breath.

Q 11: What should I do if floss gets stuck between my teeth?
Answer: If floss gets stuck, gently move it back and forth to loosen it. If it persists, seek help from a dental professional.

Q 12: Can I floss while having a dental implant?
Answer: Yes, flossing around dental implants is crucial to prevent infection. Use implant-specific floss or interdental brushes as recommended by your dentist.

Q 13: Can I floss if I have sensitive gums?
Answer: Yes, but use gentle techniques and soft floss. Consider flossing after using a desensitizing mouthwash or toothpaste.

Q 14: Can I use dental floss while having a dental crown?
Answer: Yes, flossing is essential even with dental crowns. Slide the floss gently between the crown and adjacent teeth, using a back-and-forth motion.

Q 15: Can I use dental floss with dental bridges?
Answer: Yes, specially designed floss threaders or interdental brushes can be used to clean under and around dental bridges.

Q 16: How long does it take to learn proper dental flossing technique?
Answer: With regular practice, most people become proficient in flossing within a few weeks.

Q 17: Can I floss with my eyes closed?
Answer: While it is not necessary, some people find it helpful to close their eyes for better focus and control during flossing.

Q 18: Should I floss before or after meals?
Answer: It is recommended to floss before brushing, preferably at a time that suits your routine best.

Q 19: How much pressure should I apply while flossing?
Answer: Apply gentle pressure against the tooth, avoiding excessive force that may harm your gums.

Q 20: Can I use dental floss if I have a dental filling?
Answer: Yes, flossing can be safely done with dental fillings, but be cautious around the filling edges to avoid dislodging them.


Proper dental flossing is a fundamental part of maintaining good oral hygiene. By following the steps outlined in this guide on how to use dental floss effectively, along with choosing the right floss for your needs, you will be well on your way to achieving optimal oral health. Remember to consult your dentist or dental hygienist for personalized advice and recommendations.

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